Tuesday, May 29, 2007

DAs fear public scrutiny - may make web discussions secret

Reacting to this Grits post where I questioned DAs interpretation of confidential informant rules, some members of the District and County Attorney Association now want to make their discussion board closed to public web access, despite the fact that taxpayers pay their salaries and the discussions would be avaiable anyway with a simple open records request. Prosecutor Greg Gilleland said the closed discussions were needed to keep prosecutors from being subjected to "derision and insults" on Grits and other blogs - I think that's wrong and invite you to read for yourself to see if I derided or insulted anyone.

Even so, not all prosecutors agreed this would be a good idea. One anonymous ADA who's webhandle is RTC wrote:
It seems to me that because this organization is supported by public tax dollars, whether through grants or membership fees (which are paid for by the county), that it would be terribly improper to not allow the public access or to set up some sort of "secret" forum.
That's certainly how I view it - there's no doubt in my mind these discussions are public records under current Attorney General interpretations. Prosecutors' desire to conceal such discussion only raises the question, "What do they have to hide?"

As always, you can count on Williamson County DA John Bradley to toss out the most specious, outlandish arguments to support an insupportable position: "
Do you also think the public has a right to listen in on our phone conversations?" he spuriously asked RTC.

Allow me to answer on RTC's behalf: A phone call isn't a record under the public information act, so your question doesn't apply.
What's more, when involved in phone calls or email conrrespondence involving a case, attorney work product and client privilege remain fully intact and such records are protected by law.

By contrast, when an attorney broadcasts information widely to other lawyers NOT involved in the case, any privilege he might have relied upon immediately goes away. If Bradley doesn't know that, he's not much of a lawyer - since he's actually a pretty smart guy, that makes me think instead he just wants to muddy the issue to justify an unjustifiable position.

Official web conversations between public employees including DAs will remain open records under the Public Information Act so long as current law and precedent stands. The question is will prosecutors choose to make it as difficult as possible for outsiders to access the information? A lot fewer people would file open records request than click on the DA's website. It really does make you wonder what in the world Bradley & Co. think they have to hide?

Robert Guest, a former prosecutor who blogs at I Was the State, left a quote from Patrick Henry in Grits' comments recently that's entirely apropos to this discussion: "The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them." I'm glad some prosecutors like RTC understand that, even if the more outspoken DA advocates like John Bradley don't concern themselves with such populist niceties.


Anonymous said...

I don't fear scrutiny-
Can I get a link on Grits?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

No problemo.


Anonymous said...

LOL. "derision and insults" come with the territory if one chooses to be a Public Servant - be it elected or hired. I believe there are many US Supreme Court decisions on this.

They need to GROW UP !!

If one cannot take "derision and insults" then they don't have what it takes to be an Attorney.

Anonymous said...

For anyone that has dealt with Bradley knows first hand his "Nifong" traits. The problem is that it takes lots of money to hold him accountable just as in the Nifong incident. Didn't the AAS just do a front page article about Michael Moore making a fool out of him. Mr. Bradley's Williamson County "A whole other Country".