4th District Judge Deborah Bail heard arguments from both sides this afternoon in Idaho Press Club vs. Ada County, the public records lawsuit brought by the Press Club over the county’s denial, partial denial, delay or extensive redacting of four public records requests submitted by Idaho reporters who are Press Club members. AP reporter Rebecca Boone has a full story here. Full disclosure here: I’m the president of the Press Club.
During the arguments, Bail was presented with the redacted documents that Ada County turned over to reporters in response to their requests under the Idaho Public Records Act; in some cases, they included pages and pages on which everything was completely blacked out.
Commented the judge to Jim Dickinson, deputy prosecuting attorney for Ada County, “These utterly blank documents seem to me to be pushing the envelope quite a bit.”
Deborah Ferguson, attorney for the Press Club, underscored that point, telling the court, “Hundreds and hundreds of pages of documents were produced that were completely blank, just seas of black ink.”
Dickinson argued that the county made a “good-faith effort” to comply with the requests, and faced tight time constraints. He also argued that the Press Club didn’t have standing to bring the lawsuit, an argument the judge disputed.
Dickinson told the court that he believed after the judge reviews the unredacted records that the county provided to her in camera, or privately, the court would see that the county’s assertions of broad “privilege” to withhold records under doctrines of privacy, attorney-client privilege and a “deliberative process privilege” were justified. “We’ve given the court the best evidence, in this instance,” he said.
The judge didn’t say when she’d issue her decision in the case. She did call for some additional submissions from the two sides, including a written response from the Press Club’s attorneys to Dickinson’s motion to dismiss the case. “I think it’s reasonable … to give you a chance to respond,” she said.