Inmate’s public records request denied

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An inmate at the Pendleton Correctional Facility was unable to identify with reasonable particularity the records he sought from the Fort Wayne Police Department, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded Wednesday. The case also allowed the judges for the first time to address “reasonable particularity” under the Access to Public Records Act.

Michael Jent, a convicted child molester, sought in 2009 daily incident report logs of crimes committed from Jan. 1, 2001, through Dec. 8, 2005, dealing with specific crimes and specific descriptions of a perpetrator. Sgt. Andrew Bubb with the Internal Affairs Unit of the city of Fort Wayne wrote Jent and said that the police department’s software “won’t facilitate the production of any kind of list with the parameters you specified.”

Jent then filed a complaint with the Indiana Public Access Counselor. The PAC issued an advisory opinion saying the department must make available for inspection and copying the information required to be maintained in the daily log, except for any information that falls under the investigatory records exception.

Jent sought declaratory and injunctive relief, and the trial court granted summary judgment for the FWPD.

The appellate judges noted they have never interpreted the “reasonable particularity” requirement under the APRA, but in the context of discovery rules, a requested item fits the designation if the request enables the subpoenaed party to identify what is sought and enables the trial court to determine whether there has been sufficient compliance with the request.

Jent’s request describes the records he wants in some detail, but that detail doesn’t satisfy the “reasonable particularity” requirement, the COA concluded. The FWPD was unable to fulfill his request using the search parameters Jent provided due to the software used to maintain the logs. The judges also found Jent’s reliance on the PAC advisory opinion to be misplaced because the opinion misconstrued the letter from Bubb.

“Jent did not designate any evidence showing a question of material fact on whether the FWPD had the capacity to locate the records using the search parameters set out in his request. Accordingly, it is undisputed that the FWPD was entitled to summary judgment on the basis that Jent’s request did not conform with Indiana Code Section 5-14-3-3(a)(1),” the appellate opinion states.  



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