Lawsuit Over Control of Records in Tennessee School Shooting Case

By | October 17, 2023

A lawsuit in Tennessee is underway to determine whether the families of school shooting victims have the right to control the release of records related to the massacre. The case raises questions about victims’ rights and who can intervene in public records cases.

A lawsuit in Tennessee is currently underway, raising questions about the rights of victims and who has the authority to control public records. The case revolves around the families of school shooting victims, who are seeking to prevent the release of police records related to the tragedy. The debate has garnered significant attention, with grieving parents and traumatized children facing off against a coalition that includes news organizations, a state senator, and a gun-rights group.

The coalition initially requested the police records through the Tennessee Public Records Act earlier this year. However, the Metro Nashville Police Department declined their request, prompting the coalition to sue. While Metro government attorneys have stated that the records can be made public once the investigation is closed, the coalition argues that the case is effectively over since the shooter is deceased. They believe the records should be released immediately.

Amidst the legal battle, a key question has emerged: who is a legitimate party in a public records case? In May, Chancery Court Judge I’Ashea Myles ruled that a group of over 100 Covenant families could intervene in the case. These families are seeking to prevent the public release of the records, arguing that no one has a greater interest in the case than the Covenant School children and their parents.

During the recent state Appeals Court hearing, attorney Eric Osborne, representing the families, emphasized the psychological harm that could result from releasing the documents. Declarations from the families and a report from an expert on childhood trauma were submitted as evidence, supporting their argument.

On the other side, attorney Paul Krog, representing one of the news organizations seeking the records, countered that the issue at hand should be decided by the legislature, rather than the courts. He argued that the Tennessee Public Records Act does not allow for third-party intervention to prevent the release of records.

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This case presents a unique challenge for the courts, as no one has previously challenged the intervention of third parties in Tennessee public records cases. The complexity is further heightened by the fact that the shooter identified as a transgender man, leading to speculation and conspiracy theories surrounding the contents of the writings.

As the legal battle continues, it remains to be seen how the courts will navigate the delicate balance between the rights of victims and the public’s right to access information..

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