Louisiana AG sues reporter over FOIA request
FEB 6, 2021 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: FEB 2, 2021
Landry sued Andrea Gallo, a reporter for The Advocate and The Times-Picayune, over a request she made on Dec. 14 for copies of sexual harassment complaints against Pat Magee, who heads the Louisiana Department of Justice’s criminal division, the newspaper reported.
Landry asked a judge to issue a declaratory judgment denying the request and seal the proceedings, the newspaper reported. The newspaper threatened legal action if Landry didn’t turn over the records.
“In my 40 years as an editor, I’ve never seen a journalist get sued for requesting a public record,” Peter Kovacs, the newspaper’s editor, said of the suit, adding, “We’re not intimidated. In fact, we’re more determined.”
After Gallo made the request, Landry’s office said the records couldn’t be disclosed because they were part of an ongoing investigation but added they would be available for review once the investigation was over.
On Jan. 22, days after the investigation into Magee was completed, Landry’s office told the newspaper that it would receive the records within the next week. However, his office later reversed its stance, saying it would not release the complaint due to a constitutional right to privacy and policies that call for certain investigations to be private.
The newspaper said it wrote to Landry’s office on Feb. 2, noting it would “invite redaction of the initial complaint to protect the identity of the victim, but that is the only privacy interest even arguably applicable.”
Landry’s attorneys responded to Gallo on Friday, arguing that the requested information would “compromise the rights of our employees and could lead to litigation.”
“Allegations of sexual harassment that turn out to be unsupported, inaccurate and unfounded can destroy marriages, damage employee’s children, wreck families and ruin reputations,” Landry’s attorneys added.
AG’s of Louisiana, Indiana and Montana refer to last summer’s racial justice protests as their decision not to sign onto a letter from dozens of their peers condemning the riot at the Capitol, while Texas’ Paxton has stayed quiet. https://t.co/nPWbCqU6Dr pic.twitter.com/u6563wQ7xP
— LawsInTexas (@lawsintexasusa) January 14, 2021
“Mr. Landry is using taxpayer dollars and the power of his office to punish a citizen for demanding public records about public employees,” Sternberg told the newspaper. “His office’s actions are a perversion of the law and the system. We stand behind the request, and believe the judge will agree with Ms. Gallo that Mr. Landry’s actions are arbitrary and capricious.”
Landry’s office didn’t immediately return a request for comment.