The Rhode Island Supreme Court ruled today that Providence Journal reporter Amanda Milkovits “would not be granted access to public records the Rhode Island State Police made concerning an investigation of an underage drinking incident at property owned by then-Governor Lincoln Chafee that involved the governor’s son, Caleb,” reported Bill Thompson at Channel 12.
In response to this ruling, the ACLU of Rhode Island issued the following statement regarding The Providence Journal Company et al. v. The RI Dept. of Public Safety:
The ACLU is very disappointed by the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Caleb Chafee case. We believe it fails to give sufficient weight to the important public interest in monitoring police investigations of high-profile cases.“In denying the Providence Journal access to any of the requested documents, the Court inexplicably points to the large number of records that were withheld as proof that ‘a thorough investigation was performed.’ But without being able to examine the documents, it is impossible to determine a key fact behind the records request — whether the public outcome of the investigation properly reflects what the undisclosed investigation actually uncovered.“For decades, the ACLU has strongly supported both the individual’s right to privacy and the public’s right to know. In this instance, we believe the Court tipped the scales the wrong way. Instead, the decision highlights the need for a stronger open records law in order to allow the public more critical oversight of the state’s law enforcement agencies.”