Court rules in favor of police department on inmate’s request for records

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The inmate who filed a public records request with the Indianapolis Police Department nearly nine years ago lost his case on appeal before the Indiana Court of Appeals Wednesday.

John Lane-El was convicted of a sex crime that occurred in 1992 and was incarcerated when he filed his request in 2006 for public records with the Indianapolis Police Department under the Indiana Access to Public Records Act related to his criminal case. The police department did not initially respond to his request, and later, after a court order, produced only a redacted incident report. The city of Indianapolis’ public access counselor Lauren Toppen sent Lane-El the letter responding to his request, telling him that everything else was exempt from disclosure because it was compiled in the course of an investigation.

IPD eventually filed a motion to dismiss and Lane-El filed a motion for summary judgment. The trial court ruled in 2013 in favor of the defendants and denied Lane-El’s motion for in camera review of the requested public records.

The Court of Appeals found the lower court erred in determining that IPD is not a public agency subject to the APRA and therefore not a proper party for the lawsuit. The police department qualifies as a law enforcement agency, so it fits the Act’s definition of “public agency.” The trial court also erred in determining that then-Chief of Police Michael Spears was not a proper party and concluding he was immune from suit under the Indiana Tort Claims Act. But Lane-El’s complaint does not allege a type of loss applicable to the ITCA, the judges found. They also found the chief is not a proper party to the suit because the APRA does not authorize an action to compel records against an individual.

The trial court did not abuse its discretion in granting the police department’s cross-motion for summary judgment because the public records Lane-El requested were “investigatory records” that were exempt from the APRA at IPD’s discretion. The judges rejected Lane-El’s argument that because the records were more than 20 years old and not part of an active investigation, they should be released.

They also found the trial court did not commit clear error in denying his motion for in camera review.

The case is John Lane-El v. Michael Spears, in his official capacity of Chief of Police, and the Indianapolis Police Department, 49A05-1306-PL-289.



Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Freedom From Religion Foundation: If you really want to be free from religion, don't go to the Christmas Play or the Christmas Pageant or the Christmas Parade. Anything with "Christ" or Saint...fill in the blank...would be off limits to you. Then leave the rest of us ALONE!

  2. So the prosecutor made an error and the defendants get a full remedy. Just one short paragraph to undo the harm of the erroneous prosecution. Wow. Just wow.

  3. Wake up!!!! Lawyers are useless!! it makes no difference in any way to speak about what is important!! Just dont tell your plans to the "SELFRIGHTEOUS ARROGANT JERKS!! WHO THINK THEY ARE BETTER THAN ANOTHER MAN/WOMAN!!!!!!

  4. Looks like you dont understand Democracy, Civilized Society does not cut a thiefs hands off, becouse now he cant steal or write or feed himself or learn !!! You deserve to be over punished, Many men are mistreated hurt in many ways before a breaking point happens! grow up !!!

  5. It was all that kept us from tyranny. So sad that so few among the elite cared enough to guard the sacred trust. Nobody has a more sacred obligation to obey the law than those who make the law. Sophocles No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man's permission when we ask him to obey it. Obedience to the law is demanded as a right; not asked as a favor. Theodore Roosevelt That was the ideal ... here is the Hoosier reality: The King can do no wrong. Legal maxim From the Latin 'Rex non potest peccare'. When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal. Richard Nixon