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Crime and Courts


Ohio Supreme Court says lawyers' bill are the public's business
High court limits the excemption from state public records law for attorney-client privilege
by WKSU's M.L. SCHULTZE


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M.L. Schultze
 
In The Region:

Cities,, schools and other local governments that want to keep some records out of public view cannot rely completely on calling something attorney-client privilege. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze has more on today’s (Wednesday’s) Ohio Supreme Court decision.

SCHULTZE

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The state high court ruled today that some information in billing records from private lawyers working for the Northeast Ohio city of Vermillion is subject to the state public records act.

The case started after Vermilion Mayor Jean Anderson left office in 2009, and her successor hired a new law firm. Anderson believed the change was costing the city more money and asked for itemized billing records from both law firms under Ohio’s sunshine law.

The city said no, that the bills are covered by attorney-client privilege, so the public can’t see them.

Anderson sued for the records, damages and her own attorneys fees, saying there was nothing privileged about those records.

An appeals court threw out the suit. The Supreme Court – unanimously – disagreed and reinstated it.

It said information such as the general title of what the lawyers handled for the city, the dates, hours, rate and amounts paid are the public’s business.

The high court rejected Vermilion’s arguments that the bills are so intertwined with privileged information that they’re inseparable.

But, it did not grant Anderson’s request for damages and attorney’s fees because it said the city was basing its arguments on another case the Supreme Court had decided.

 

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