Judge rules in favor of WBRZ, The Advocate in court battle over Southern University records
BATON ROUGE – WBRZ and The Advocate have filed a joint lawsuit to get access to public information concerning the university's investigation into an employee connected to the East Baton Rouge Council on Aging.
> UPDATE: On Monday, August 21, a judge ruled in favor of WBRZ and The Advocate; Documents requested will be released. Check back for updates.
WBRZ and Chief Investigator Chris Nakamoto first reported on the Council on Aging earlier this year when a woman who had used Council on Aging services died and her family learned officials at the agency had been written into her will. The family went to court to challenge the will.
The Advocate also followed the story closely, including reporting with WBRZ about Dorothy Jackson, a Southern University professor and law school administrator who was involved in changing the woman’s will.
Jackson is on paid leave as the university looks into her dealings with the Council on Aging. Reporters from both media outlets have requested information about the investigation and if Jackson was reprimanded. Southern has refused to make information available.
Previously, the university said it was not releasing the information due to Jackson's privacy rights.
An attorney for WBRZ and The Advocate believe the records requested fall under public information laws since Southern is a public university and Jackson is a government employee. The council on aging is also a public entity.
The lawsuit seeks all information related to Southern's investigation into Jackson; information about an investigation into the school's Elder Law Clinic, which is where the will was drafted; information related to Southern's ties between the law clinic and the Council on Aging; and Jackson's suspension.
"I think it's particularly significant that we are talking about a law professor here. Law professors know that public records need to be subject to public scrutiny," attorney Scott Keaty said. "Taxpayers need to understand what is happening here."
On Monday, Southern University released the following statement in response to the lawsuit:
The University's legal counsel is reviewing a lawsuit recently filed related to a public records request on an investigation involving SU Law professor Dorothy Jackson. As stated directly to The Advocate, the law requires that the University balance the privacy interest of the employee involved with the public’s right to be informed. To the extent a court determines that the balance of those interests may be different, the University will promptly follow the guidance provided by the court. The University will have no further comment on this pending litigation.
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