Indiana Supreme Court to consider ESPN suit against Notre Dame
The Indiana Supreme Court has granted transfer of the lawsuit ESPN filed against the University of Notre Dame seeking access to its police records.
On March 15, 2016, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled the university's police department is a public agency subject to the Indiana Access to Public Records Act.
On April 14, the university filed a petition to transfer the case to the Indiana Supreme Court.
The petition was granted on June 30th.
The university asked the court to grant transfer and affirm the trial court's judgment or limit the decision to private campus police records created in the future.
The university argued three public access counselors under three different governors over the course of a decade held private university police were not subject to the public records act. And over that time, the legislature amended ARPA but did not include private university police departments.
Therefore, Notre Dame says it structured its operations and officers on that statutory interpretation believing the privacy of their students and institutional autonomy would not be compromised by public access to private campus records.
The university says if the decision by the Indiana Court of Appeals is allowed to stand, it would have significant implications for Notre Dame and other private universities.
The university also stated public universities create Offices of Student Affairs or similar offices to handle non-criminal disciplinary matters - and those records remain confidential. If this ruling stands, the university says similar matters at Notre Dame would be at risk for public disclosure.
According to the petition, the university also states the appeals court incorrectly applied the definition of a law enforcement agency because it states any "agency or department of any level of government" and the university is not a government entity.
The petition also states the new interpretation of their police department as subject to the public records act should only apply to records produced after the court decision.
ESPN filed a brief in response to the petition to transfer.
ESPN says if the Notre Dame police department chooses to act as a public police force, it should be subject to the same accountability as a public police force and the transfer should be denied.
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 the decision was reversed by the Indiana Court of Appeals.