Articles Posted in Communications Law

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In 2014, a Norman restaurant's surveillance video captured an incident depicting Joe Mixon striking a woman. The Norman Police Department (Department) was called to the location, investigated, and obtained and reviewed the surveillance video. On Friday, August 15, 2014, a Department detective filed an affidavit of probable cause seeking an arrest warrant for Mixon. The detective stated probable cause existed based on interviews completed by other officers, injuries sustained by the victim, and the surveillance video of the incident which he described in detail. The same day, the Cleveland County District Attorney filed a criminal information, referencing the same incident number as the probable cause affidavit and alleging that Mixon committed the misdemeanor crime of Acts Resulting in Gross Injury when he struck the female. Mixon voluntarily appeared in district court to answer the charge and was arraigned. At the same time, the district court ordered Mixon to be processed by the Cleveland County Sheriff's Department and to remain in custody pending his posting a bond. KWTV News 9, a member of the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters (Association), requested a copy of the surveillance video from Department and District Attorney, referencing the Open Records Act. The Norman City Attorney emailed KWTV News 9 that, barring changes, such as the judge ordering the video sealed, he did "not know of a reason why [Department] would not be willing to make copies of the Mixon video available for public inspection and copying after November 1." Without furnishing copies of the video, the Department allowed KWTV News 9 and other media to view the video. Association was not present at this viewing. Mixon entered an Alford Plea to the criminal charge. The same day, Association made a request under the Act for a copy of the surveillance video from the City and the Department and KWTV News 9 renewed its request. District Attorney responded, informing Association that it no longer had the video as it had given the video to the victim. City told KWTV News 9 that Department had delivered a copy of the video to the City Attorney, who placed it in a litigation file. The Association filed petition for declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, and mandamus. Defendants filed motions to dismiss. The district court granted the motion. Plaintiff appealed. The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded the proceedings. The Supreme Court concluded that the Association was entitled to judgment as a matter of law and entitled to a writ of mandamus. The video was ordered to be a part of the court record and preserved by the attorneys. The Defendants had to allow the Association a copy of the surveillance video. View "Oklahoma Assoc. of Broadcasters, Inc. v. City of Norman" on Justia Law

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Initiative Petition No. 403 sought to amend the Oklahoma Constitution by adding a new Article 13-C. The proposed article would create the Oklahoma Education Improvement Fund, designed to provide for the improvement of public education in Oklahoma through an additional one-cent sales and use tax. Funds generated by the one-cent tax would be distributed to public school districts, higher education institutions, career and technology centers, and early childhood education providers for certain educational purposes outlined in the proposed article. Additionally, a percentage of the funds would be used to provide a $5,000.00 pay raise to all public school teachers. Opponents challenged the initiative, arguing it violated the one general subject rule of Art. 24, sec. 1 of the Oklahoma Constitution. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that Initiative Petition No. 403 did not violate the one general subject rule and was legally sufficient for submission to the people of Oklahoma. View "IN RE INITIATIVE PETITION NO. 403 STATE QUESTION NO. 779" on Justia Law

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The Oklahoma Publishing Company (The Oklahoman) and World Publishing Company (Tulsa World) (collectively, Publishers), filed open records requests with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the Office of State Finance (OSF). Both the Oklahoman and Tulsa World sought to release of birth dates of all state employees. In addition, the Tulsa World requested employee identification numbers. The Oklahoma Public Employees Association (OPEA) filed two suits against OPM and OSF requesting declaratory judgment and injunctive relief to bar the release of employees' birth dates. The second suit also sought to bar employee identification numbers from disclosure. The district court consolidated the cases. All parties filed motions for summary judgment. Relying on an opinion of the Oklahoma Attorney General, the trial court sustained OPEA's and OPM's motions. It ordered that the state agencies be given sixty days’ notice to report their decisions on whether disclosure of date of birth requests would be a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy; whether public access could be denied to employee identification numbers; and that legislative staff records were exempt from disclosure under the Oklahoma Open Records Act. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that Oklahoma law already contains a non-exclusive list of examples of information that if released, would constitute an unwarranted invasion of State employees' personal privacy. As guidance, the Court held that where a claim of invasion of privacy is made, courts should use a case-by-case balancing test to determine whether personal information is subject to release. If significant privacy interests are at stake while the public's interest in the disclosed information is minimal, release of that information "would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy." View "Oklahoma Publishing Co. v. Oklahoma" on Justia Law