COA to hear denied public records request in case of woman’s death

The Indiana Court of Appeals will travel to Evansville on Monday to hear arguments in a case involving the denial of a man’s request for access to public records. 

Judges John G. Baker, Melissa S. May and Elaine B. Brown will hear the case of Scales v. Warrick Co. Sheriff's Dept., 18A-MI-01590, at 11 a.m. CST Monday at the University of Southern Indiana.

Kenneth Scales is the father of Kristy Kelley, a young mother who went missing in August 2014 and was found dead at the bottom of a lake in Warrick County two months later. Shortly after Kristy was found dead, the Warrick County Sheriff’s Department closed her case after issuing an accidental death ruling.

Scales sought records from the WCSD, but his claim was denied because the department said that the documents were “sealed.” He now appeals the Warrick Superior Court’s order denying his petition for access to public records, arguing that the trial court erred when it granted the WCSD’s motion for summary judgment.

The case involves Indiana Access to Public Records Act and law enforcement’s discretion to withhold records from the public under the “investigatory records” exception. Scales specifically argues that the records he seeks are not investigatory records because there was never a criminal investigation, that the sheriff’s department improperly relied on conclusory statements in an affidavit, and that the decision to withhold the records was arbitrary and capricious.

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