In a novel Jan. 15 lawsuit filed in the state of Indiana (St. Joseph County Superior Court), ESPN and its reporter Paula Lavigne seek an order, pursuant to the state’s public records law, requiring Notre Dame to turn over records from the school’s police department which may pertain to possible crimes or transgressions by one or more of the school’s student-athletes. See articles at Business Insider, and SI.com.)
The state has a Public Access Counselor, Luke Britt, who has generated two (non-binding) opinions (on Oct. 31, and earlier this month) declaring that the public access law requires Notre Dame to disclose the records. His rationale — notable, to the say the least, since the long-accepted wisdom is that private schools have no obligation to perform under state or federal public access laws — is that the ND police force’s status as a public law enforcement agency makes it subject to the Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act.
ESPN had apparently made a similar request of Florida State this past fall, and FSU voluntarily then released the records to the public, making moot the request generated by ESPN. But FSU, as a public university, has clear and long-recognized obligations under the state’s public access law.