Judge refuses to hand over criminal file to police

SPD Association wants DA's info on 14,000 pills missing from property room

SHREVEPORT, La. - A Caddo Parish District judge this week denied a police union request for records, rendering moot the union's demand for damages and attorney's fees.

The Shreveport Police Officers Association sought records of a pending criminal file within the district attorney’s office concerning approximately 14,000 pills that went missing from the Shreveport Police Department property room back in 2012.

In his decision Monday, District Judge Craig O. Marcotte refused to grant the writ of mandamus proceeding filed October 29, 2015, on behalf of the Shreveport Police Officer’s Association (SPOA) against the Caddo Parish District Attorney’s office pertaining to a public records request.

The lawsuit was filed before current Caddo Parish District Attorney James E. Stewart Sr. was elected.

Louisiana law provides exceptions to public records requests that involve criminal cases with pending criminal litigation or where criminal litigation can be reasonably anticipated.

The judge agreed with the DA's office that it fell within this exception and that the office had not violated public records law.

"The ruling was a confirmation of the position the District Attorney’s office had maintained throughout the period of the request and this litigation," Assistant District Attorney Tommy Johnson said.

"Since the SPOA had made a demand for damages and attorney’s fees in excess of $30,000, this office was compelled to litigate the matter in defense of the rights provided to this office under the Louisiana Constitution, the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure and the law pertaining to exceptions to any public records request."

Judge Marcotte did note, however, that upon prescription — when the statute of limitations expires for any criminal prosecution — the DA's office would have to turn over any records that do not fall into another exception to the public records law. Even then the records could be redacted to ensure compliance with regard to exclusions concerning privacy, medical matters or personnel issues.

"The District Attorney has never opposed turning over records pursuant to a public records request, when the statute of limitations on all criminal prosecution has expired, subject to any exception," Johnson said.

"In fact, the District Attorney’s office agreed with the judge on this point in accordance with how it has handled these matters in the past after the statute of limitations has run."

At the request of the attorney representing the DA's office in this matter, records subject to exceptions were given to the judge for in-camera inspection to determine what exceptions still would apply upon prescription. That ruling is pending.

 


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