The Idaho Press Club claimed Ada County officials have turned the presumption of government transparency “upside down,” in the Press Club’s response to the county’s attempt to dismiss a lawsuit.
The suit, brought by the Press Club on behalf of four local journalists, claims county officials repeatedly violated Idaho’s Public Records Act in response to public records requests.
Last week, Ada County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney James Dickinson filed a memorandum in opposition to the suit, which argued the Board of Commissioners and the Ada County Sheriff’s Office followed the law when responding to reporters’ requests, while legally redacting some information to protect individuals’ rights and privileges.
The county also filed a memorandum in support of a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the Idaho Press Club did not name or serve the proper parties in the lawsuit, and that the Press Club lacked standing to sue on behalf of the individual journalists.
In its response, the Idaho Press Club claimed that several of Ada County’s arguments had no basis in Idaho law. Idaho Press Club’s attorney Deborah Ferguson referenced several points where the county claimed disclosing public records would constitute a privacy risk. But she wrote that the existence of right to privacy is not clearly established.
“The County does not clearly state the legal basis or the source of this sweeping privacy right, the scope of this alleged right, or any test to apply it,” she wrote.
Ferguson also wrote that Ada County exaggerated the scope of attorney-client and attorney-work product privileges in its arguments, and its claim of a “deliberative process privilege” is not found in Idaho law.
“The Press Club respectfully asks the Court not to take the bait that the County is offering,” she wrote.
Multiple media outlets, including the Idaho Press and the Idaho Statesman, have financially contributed to the Press Club’s effort to bring this lawsuit. Idaho Press reporter Betsy Russell is president of the Idaho Press Club.
A hearing is scheduled for Oct. 2 before 4th District Judge Deborah Bail.