HAMILTON COUNTY, Ohio (WKBN) – A county clerk’s office in Ohio has to pay an inmate $1,000 for refusal to provide public records.
The case surrounds the request by Kimani Ware for records from the Hamilton County Court. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the clerk’s office wrongly denied the request and now must pay $1,000 in damages to Ware.
Ware wanted the records for a 2001 lawsuit filed by the Cincinnati Enquirer and copies of the oaths of offices taken by three judges. At first, he did not receive a response to his request. A year later, Ware asked the Supreme Court to force the court to turn over the records and asked for damages.
The court ruled in favor of Ware for the lawsuit records request but not for the oaths of the judges.
The clerk’s office initially denied the records request citing a law that states an inmate is not entitled to records of a criminal case initiated prior to July 2009, unless permitted by a judge.
However, the Enquirer case was a civil case not criminal. The court explained the error this way:
“The clerk failed to provide any meaningful explanation as to why the civil case records would fall into the category of those concerning a criminal investigation or prosecution. Because Ware was entitled to the records, he was entitled to $100 per day for each day that the clerk’s office failed to provide them. The public records law limits the maximum award to $1,000, which was granted Ware”
Chief Justice Sharon L. Kennedy wrote that the records of the judicial oaths were wrongly denied to Ware because those records are governed by the Public Records Act.