ESPN to appeal Indiana judge's ruling on Notre Dame police

May 21, 2015

ESPN will appeal a northern Indiana judge's ruling that the University of Notre Dame police department is not subject to the state's open records law.

Lawyers for ESPN filed a notice Wednesday with the Indiana Court of Appeals that it would appeal the April 20 ruling by St. Joseph Superior Judge Steven Hostetler. The notice does not disclose the grounds on which ESPN will base its appeal.

Neither ESPN nor Notre Dame would comment Wednesday.

Hostetler wrote in his ruling last month that although he believes there are "persuasive reasons why the statute should be amended to read the way ESPN desires," the Legislature has not attempted to impose on private colleges and universities the obligation to comply with state's open records law.

The Bristol, Connecticut-based company is seeking records about possible campus crimes that may involve student-athletes.

ESPN contends that a police department with the power to arrest should be subject to public scrutiny. It filed a lawsuit Jan. 15 alleging the private school was violating Indiana's public record laws by withholding police incident reports, but it didn't specify what incident reports ESPN was seeking or which athletes may have been involved.

ESPN filed the lawsuit after state Public Access Counselor Luke Britt issued an advisory opinion in October that the university should follow Indiana's public records laws even though it is a private institution. Britt wrote that the police department's powers come from the state of Indiana and that he was not comfortable saying an organization can hide behind the cloak of secrecy when they have the power to arrest, create criminal records and exercise police powers.

Three of Britt's predecessors had issued opinions from 2003 to 2011 concluding that a police force that answers solely to a private university is not subject to public records law.


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