The Ohio Supreme Court Changes its Interpretation of the Confidential Law Enforcement Investigatory Records Exception to the Ohio Public Records Act

In General by Coolidge Wall

In December of 2016, the Ohio Supreme Court, in State ex rel. Caster v. City of Columbus, 2016-Ohio-8394, changed the way that a public office may respond to a public records request where the confidential law enforcement investigatory records exception applies.

Confidential law enforcement investigatory records (“CLEIRS”) are not considered public records pursuant to Ohio Revised Code Section 149.43(A)(1)(h). Investigatory work product may be withheld by a public office under the CLEIRS exception.

Before the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision in Caster, the CLEIRS exception regarding investigatory work product was interpreted as applying until all possible proceedings had been completed, including any appeals and post-conviction relief. However, in Caster, the Supreme Court held that the CLEIRS exception for investigatory work product does not extend beyond the completion of the trial of the underlying criminal case.

The Supreme Court’s decision in Caster is significant because now a public office must provide investigatory work product after the underlying criminal case has been completed, even if an appeal is occurring or some other action is being taken (unless another exemption applies).

To learn more about the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision, or to discuss the Ohio Sunshine Laws in general, please contact Jessica A. Brockman at Coolidge Wall at 937-449-5545.