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. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  2. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  3. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  4. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  5. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well