Tragedy struck Darla Nieder in October 2017 when her daughter fell victim to a double-murder in St. Louis City. In February 2018, desperate to learn whatever she could about her child’s death, Nieder exercised her right to request unredacted, unedited copies of records related to the investigation of her daughter’s death.
State law says that a law enforcement agency receiving such a request must within thirty days either produce the requested materials or file a motion with the circuit court asking for permission to withhold them.
In October 2018, after more than 260 days had passed, St. Louis City, acting on behalf of its police department, filed a motion asking the St. Louis City Circuit Court for permission to withhold the requested materials from Nieder.
The City’s motion plainly acknowledged in paragraph 12 that they had blown past the statutory deadline for filing, but still insisted that it should not be required to produce the requested materials.
This situation is infuriating, but not surprising. St. Louis City and its police department are well aware of the Sunshine Law and its requirements – in fact, they have been found liable for violating that law on multiple occasions. And yet, because courts have so rarely held government bodies accountable for ignoring their transparency obligations, the City saw little risk in ignoring its responsibilities when it came to Nieder’s request.
The Freedom Center will not allow this challenge to transparency to go unanswered. We have stepped up to protect Nieder’s rights and the rights of all Missourians, filing a responsive pleading that not only asks the court to dismiss the City’s motion as untimely filed, but also includes a counterclaim against the City for knowingly and purposefully refusing to produce the requested materials even though it knew it had missed its statutory window to seek permission to withhold them.
The Freedom Center is committed to continue fighting for citizens’ right to transparency and governmental accountability. If you’d like to help us carry on that fight, please consider donating to our cause today!