News/Media Alliance Joins Brief in Support of Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act Fee-Shifting Provision

On July 1st, the News/Media Alliance joined an amicus brief in the Indiana Supreme Court in support of Christopher Nardi who brought a lawsuit against the Indiana Election Division for wrongfully denying his access to three documents he had requested under Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act (APRA). The trial court required the Division to give Nardi access to a redacted version of one of the documents. Nardi filed a petition for the total amount of costs and fees incurred, claiming that he had “substantially prevailed” in the matter as required by the APRA to recover, however the trial court awarded Nardi one-third of the amount requested. The Court of Appeals of Indiana reversed the trial court’s partial award, claiming that Nardi did not “substantially prevail” because he only recovered one out of three documents requested and the document recovered was “undisputedly mundane.”

The brief, led by RCFP and joined by numerous news and media organizations, urges the Indiana Supreme Court to reverse the appellate court’s decision and grant Nardi the full amount of costs and fees. The brief argues that a plaintiff who obtains a record through litigation, regardless of the number or nature of the records wrongfully withheld, has “substantially prevailed” and should be awarded full costs. This case and the mandatory fee-shifting provision in APRA is integral to facilitating government transparency, without which journalists, especially from under-resourced news organizations, would be discouraged from pursuing lawsuits to recover important public records.

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