Court of appeals sides with ESPN over access to UND police records

The Indiana Court of Appeals has made a decision in the case of ESPN vs the University of Notre Dame over access to campus police department records. The court ruled the university's police department is a public agency subject to the Indiana Access to Public Records Act.

In September 2014, ESPN requested public incident reports from the Notre Dame Police Department concerning 275 student-athletes and whether they were victims, suspects, witnesses, or reporting parties to incidents reported to the department.

The university denied the request stating it was not a public entity subject to APRA.

A trial court agreed, but on Tuesday, the decision was reversed.

The Indiana Court of Appeals determined the university's police department is a public agency subject to the Indiana Access to Public Records Act.

The court also ruled that only the police department is determined to be a public agency under APRA and the decision does not apply to the university as a whole.

The appeals court decision includes an order for the lower court to enter a judgment in favor of ESPN.

However, the appeals court did not order the police department to produce the documents requested by ESPN.

Instead, the trial court must determine which of the records the police department is required to produce under APRA and only those records must be provided.

The university says it plans to appeal to the Indiana Supreme Court in a statement released to the media.

Paul Browne, Vice President for Public Affairs and Communications at the University of Notre Dame released this statement:

Three previous public access counselors and Judge Hostetler all separately ruled that private university police departments, including the Notre Dame Security Police, are not subject to APRA. We continue to believe that is true, and we further believe that the opinion handed down today went beyond the law. Since the opinion is not certified or final, it does not yet have effect, and the parties cannot act on it. We will appeal to the Indiana Supreme Court.

David Scott, Senior Director of Communications for ESPN released this statement:

We are pleased with the appellate court's decision to support the public's right to open records, and we continue to report on this story.

The Office of the Indiana Attorney General also released a statement:

The court's ruling is a qualified victory for public access and transparency, concepts my office long has supported. The public has the right to transparency and accountability when police power is being exercised, and we look forward to further judicial clarifications on the scope of the public's right to know in future decisions by our courts.

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