Sunday, October 19, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Publisher wins public records case

By
From page A2 | July 18, 2013 |

SACRAMENTO (AP) — A state Court of Appeal has ruled that a small-town California newspaper publisher does not have to pay legal fees to a school board he sued over his public records request —a decision hailed by First Amendment advocates as a victory for government transparency.

A loss in the case could have chilled the public and journalists from challenging government agencies that are withholding documents sought under California’s Public Records Act, said Peter Scheer, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition. He said that fear of being hit with legal fees could deter people from suing to obtain public records.

“This has reaffirmed that people have a right, if they are denied public records, to go to court and try to get that decision reversed and as long as it’s in good faith you won’t be in the disastrous position of having to pay the government’s legal fees,” said Scheer. “Had it gone the other way, all bets would have been off.”

Neither attorneys for the school board nor the district superintendent immediately returned telephone calls seeking comment.

FAC organized the appeal and, with one of its board members, underwrote the paper’s legal expenses.

The case came out of Glenn County, an agricultural community in Northern California, where the publisher of the Sacramento Valley Mirror had sought emails that might have shown the Willows Unified School District was using school resources to influence a political campaign, a story line that ultimately fizzled out. He filed a request under the California Public Records Act for all of the superintendent’s emails.

Tim Crews, who started the 3,000-circulation paper 23 years ago with “$50 in my pocket,” said the school board delayed its response and he eventually sued to get the information he was seeking.

The school district began delivering copies of the emails the day after Crews filed suit. A Superior Court judge later ruled that the lawsuit was frivolous because the district was complying and Crews should have settled with it. He ordered the publisher to pay more than $56,000 in legal fees the school district had amassed.

The Court of Appeal ruled that while Crews ultimately may not have won, the case had enough merit that it couldn’t be considered frivolous.

The financial hit would have crushed the paper, where Crews, 69, is a dying breed of small-town publishers. He still gets out of bed at 2 a.m. to take photos of car wrecks, and he writes stories, edits copy and delivers papers.

“Small-town newspapering is not a way to get rich,” he said. “It’s high risk all the time. We win a lot of awards, but you can’t eat them. Times are difficult.”

First amendment attorneys worked with Crews at discounted fees.

“The litigation costs have been substantial, but we didn’t want to make bad law and we didn’t want other little newspapers and other users of the California Public Records Act to be intimidated by this kind of ruling,” Crews said. “I’m vastly relieved.”

The California Newspaper Publishers Association and several publishers filed a brief in defense of Crews.

Comments

comments

The Associated Press

.

News

Howzat! Cricket tradition grows in Davis

By Lily Holmes | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Housing First pilot project targets West Sac homeless

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1

Return to sender: MRAP removal options go to council

By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
$18.75M grant aims to build global food security

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Cop witnesses car-pedestrian collision

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

Hawaii hit by winds, rain as hurricane veers west

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Evidentiary hearing set for man shot by CHP

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

 
For the record

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

Firefighters on the town

By Wayne Tilcock | From Page: A3

 
Donate used books at Co-op

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Love-life tips on ‘Heart to Heart’

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Volunteers sought to chip in on parks cleanup

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Crash victim ID’d as Woodland man

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A3

 
Senior Computer Club hears from county official

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Guns to be discharged at police range

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A3

 
DHS ski and snowboard swap set on Nov. 9

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Wolk sets ‘Morning with the Mayor’

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Safe viewing of solar eclipse planned

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

Fill the Boot for the hungry

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A3

 
Quiz Master Gardeners at open house

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Celebrate origami at Davis library

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Esparto home targeted in three-city pot bust

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A4

 
Apply by Friday for Biberstein grants

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
Wolk earns perfect score from senior advocates

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

UCD celebrates 50 years of global agricultural success

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9 | Gallery

 
Special education information night scheduled

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A11

Be on the lookout for tagged Monarch butterflies

By Kathy Keatley Garvey | From Page: A16 | Gallery

 
.

Forum

Old news disturbs the present

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

 
Take time to reach out for help

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: A8

Are we there yet? Yik Yakking the day away

By Tanya Perez | From Page: A8

 
A bionic hand with feeling

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

Ain’t Snow Mountain high enough

By Our View | From Page: A14

 
Let’s take Davis’ energy future seriously

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A14

Teach cyclists to obey laws

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A14

 
Proposed lights harm kids

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A14

Water theater isn’t fun

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A15

 
Elect Granda to board

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A15

Yes on Prop. 47: reasonable changes to curb recidivism, save money

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A15

 
No on Prop. 47: an end to safe neighborhoods, and more victims

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A15

Be careful cycling on Fifth

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A15

 
.

Sports

Competitive Aggies fall at No. 6/7 Montana

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Devils stick it to Chico, cancer

By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Vargas emerges from crowded Aggie WR corps

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

JV Devils fall to Franklin

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2

 
Niemi leads Sharks to win

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

UCD roundup: Big crowd sees Aggies nip Guachos

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B8 | Gallery

 
.

Features

.

Arts

.

Business

 
Davis is a temple for fine beverages

By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: A5 | Gallery

Arcadia Biosciences earns spot on global innovation list

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

 
35 employers will be at West Sac job fair

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

Rob White: Building an economy on innovation

By Rob White | From Page: A6

 
.

Obituaries

Sadie Louise Barga

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
Morgan Wheeler

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

Peggy Belenis Swisher

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Comics: Sunday, October 19, 2014

By Creator | From Page: B8