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Newspaper loses appeal over access to death records

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A newspaper was not improperly denied access to death records, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Friday.

The Evansville Courier & Press requested death records from the Vanderburgh County Department of Health under the Access to Public Records Act, and after an initial advisory opinion to the contrary, the Indiana Public Access Counselor concluded denial was improper.

But the health department continued to refuse to hand over the records, and the Vanderburgh Circuit Court ruled against the newspaper when it sued. An appellate panel affirmed, holding that while these are public records, statutes clearly make exclusions.

Judge Michael Barnes wrote for the panel that I.C. 16-37-1-8 states a local health officer shall provide death certificates “only if” the person seeking the record has a direct interest, among other conditions.

“As neither the Courier & Press nor Ward showed they had a direct interest in the death certificates or that the death certificates were necessary for the determination of personal or property rights or for compliance with state or federal law, the Health Department properly denied their requests,” Barnes wrote for the panel in Evansville Courier & Press and Rita Ward v. Vanderburgh County Health Department, 82A04-1302-PL-57.

“A local health officer need only provide a death certificate to an applicant fulfilling the direct interest and necessity requirements of Section 16-37-1-8. As neither the Courier & Press nor Ward provided any information to make such a showing, the Health Department properly denied their requests,” Barnes wrote.



 
 

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  1. A sad end to a prolific gadfly. Indiana has suffered a great loss in the journalistic realm.

  2. Good riddance to this dangerous activist judge

  3. What is the one thing the Hoosier legal status quo hates more than a whistleblower? A lawyer whistleblower taking on the system man to man. That must never be rewarded, must always, always, always be punished, lest the whole rotten tree be felled.

  4. I want to post this to keep this tread alive and hope more of David's former clients might come forward. In my case, this coward of a man represented me from June 2014 for a couple of months before I fired him. I knew something was wrong when he blatantly lied about what he had advised me in my contentious and unfortunate divorce trial. His impact on the proceedings cast a very long shadow and continues to impact me after a lengthy 19 month divorce. I would join a class action suit.

  5. The dispute in LB Indiana regarding lake front property rights is typical of most beach communities along our Great Lakes. Simply put, communication to non owners when visiting the lakefront would be beneficial. The Great Lakes are designated navigational waters (including shorelines). The high-water mark signifies the area one is able to navigate. This means you can walk, run, skip, etc. along the shores. You can't however loiter, camp, sunbath in front of someones property. Informational signs may be helpful to owners and visitors. Our Great Lakes are a treasure that should be enjoyed by all. PS We should all be concerned that the Long Beach, Indiana community is on septic systems.

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