BOSTON (CN) – The attorney general of Massachusetts has pushed her way into an ongoing public-records fight, siding with the Boston Globe over three district attorneys.
The Globe has been fighting since January 2015 to obtain records on all criminal cases pursued in court by the AG’s office, as well as the DA offices of Worcester, Plymouth and The Cape and Islands.
Specifically, the newspaper seeks case numbers, offenses and dates of court filings for all criminal cases within a set time period.
District Attorneys Joseph Early, Timothy Cruz and Michael O’Keefe refused to comply, claiming that the requested information was exempt from disclosure under the state’s CORI statute, short for Criminal Offender Record Information, which protects the privacy of those charged or convicted of crimes.
In Suffolk Superior Court last week, Attorney General Maura Healey brought a Thanksgiving Eve complaint for declaratory judgment, saying the records sought by the Globe are public.
In her 15-page complaint, Healey referenced a previous Supreme Judicial Court opinion that “there is no violation of the CORI statute when the search specifications consist of information that would also be revealed on the court’s records accessible to the public.”
This is in contrast to documents that are privileged as attorney-client communication or that fall “under the attorney work product doctrine as opinion work product” – neither of which are public records.
The Globe initially sent records requests to all 11 district attorneys in the state. Aside from the three holdouts, every the DA office has either supplied the records or begun the process of gathering the records.
After Early, Cruz and O’Keefe rebuffed the requests, the Globe reached out to Secretary of State William Galvin who ordered the DAs’ offices to release the records within 10 days, or provide specific explanations about which records were exempt as privileged information.
The DAs claimed that all of the information was exempt and again refused to comply. Galvin’s office sent two additional orders, which were likewise unsuccessful.
Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Sclarsic signed Healey’s Nov. 23 complaint.
“The exemption asserted by the Defendants does not apply to the entire universe of records sought by the Requester,” it says. “Therefore, they may not be withheld in their entirety. To the extent that the Defendants seek to redact portions of the records, the Defendants must specify how the Public Records Law Exemption applies to specialized data fields or information therein they seek to redact.”
The DA offices did not immediately respond to requests for comment.