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Newspaper Wins Order Unsealing Settlements

(CN) - A newspaper is entitled to sealed copies of settlement agreements stemming from two lawsuits filed by a teacher, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled.

Katherine Moss sued the Campbellsville school district, alleging sexual harassment. She also sued the Taylor County school board for failing to hire her.

The Central Kentucky News-Journal asked for a writ of mandamus ordering Judge Doughlas George to provide it with copies of sealed documents from the settlement agreements.

The Kentucky Court of Appeals denied the writ, but the state high court reversed, ruling that the newspaper had the right to access the documents.

"[T]he agreements must be disclosed pursuant to Kentucky's Open Records Act," Justice Will Scott wrote, adding that "it is beyond question that settlement agreements are public records for purposes of the Open Records Act."

Scott rejected the school boards' claim that settlement agreements should remain sealed due to a privacy exception in the Open Records Act.

"The settlement proceeds were paid out of the Kentucky School Board Insurance Trust, an insurance policy, the premiums for which had to have been, at least indirectly, paid with public tax money," Scott wrote.

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