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Samuel Crankshaw

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June 8, 2023

BANGOR – The Maine Supreme Judicial Court will consider the scope of public access to public records created and maintained by the Maine County Commissioners’ Association Risk Pool, a government entity responsible for covering the costs of legal settlements in lawsuits against county-run operations.

ACLU of Maine Legal Director Carol Garvan will argue before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court at 11:30AM, June 8, 2023, at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor.

Watch the proceedings here

The lawsuit concerns access to records concerning the cost of a settlement resulting from a lawsuit filed in Kennebec County. A person incarcerated in the Kennebec County Jail sued the jail, alleging the use of racial slurs and violence by a jail employee. The risk pool, which paid the cost of the settlement, refused to release the relevant public records when lawfully asked by the Human Rights Defense Center under Maine’s Freedom of Access Act.

In December 2022, the ACLU of Maine won a lower court ruling ordering the risk pool to release public records showing the amount of money paid to settle the lawsuit against Kennebec County. Superior Court Justice Daniel I. Billings issued a hard-hitting opinion against the risk pool, saying it had “adopted absurd, blatantly untrue, and inconsistent legal positions in this litigation.” In a first-of-its-kind ruling, Justice Billings concluded that the risk pool acted in “bad faith” when it refused to share the requested public records. This will be the Law Court’s first occasion to interpret the “bad faith” standard under Maine’s Freedom of Access Act.

The case before the court is Human Rights Defense Center v. Maine County Commissioners Association Self-Funded Risk Management Pool. The Human Rights Defense Center is represented by the ACLU of Maine.