Friday, May 4, 2012
State Supreme Court denies district attorney's petition for standing but appeal still pending
The state Supreme Court last week denied a district attorney's petition declaring he has the right to appeal a district judge's order that Bartlesville police provide the local newspaper with a copy of hospital surveillance video that led to the arrest of two officers in December.
But the one-line order agreed to by all the justices didn't offer an explanation.
And Washington County District Attorney Kevin Buchanan already has appealed District Judge Curtis L. DeLapp's decision.
The Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise this week filed a motion asking the court to dismiss Buchanan's appeal.
The newspaper had filed an Open Records Act lawsuit against Buchanan, the city and police department on Feb. 3 after city officials said it would take a court order to get a copy of the video that led to two police officers being charged with assaulting a handcuffed patient.
DeLapp ruled March 12 that Bartlesville police had to provide the video, but he did not decide whether Buchanan had to as well.
On March 16, Buchanan asked DeLapp to suspend his order against the police so Buchanan could appeal it. DeLapp refused, saying that Buchanan had no standing because the order didn't apply to him.
The Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise received a copy of the hospital surveillance video on March 16 after the newspaper agreed not to seek attorney's fees from the city, which in turn agreed not to appeal a judge's order to release the video.
On March 18, the newspaper posted the 44-minute video, which shows a confrontation in a local hospital emergency room between four Bartlesville police officers and a young man who had been brought to the hospital after expressing "suicidal thoughts."
On March 23, Buchanan filed a petition for a writ of mandamus with the appellate court. He wanted the state Supreme Court to suspend DeLapp's order and grant him standing to appeal it.
Before getting an answer from the court, Buchanan filed the appeal on April 4.
The court's denial of Buchanan's petition for standing "could mean either that the court doesn't believe the DA has standing or it could mean that the court just doesn't see the writ as being the proper procedure to raise the issue and it expects to deal with standing/mootness in the appeal itself," said media attorney Robert Nelon of Hall Estill.
Nelon is representing FOI Oklahoma, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the Oklahoma Society for Professional Journalists Pro Chapter, which are asking permission to file as amici curiae in the case.
Joey Senat, Ph.D.
OSU School of Media & Strategic Communications
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the commentators and do not necessarily represent the position of FOI Oklahoma Inc., its staff, or its board of directors. Differing interpretations of open government law and policy are welcome.