Reclaim The Records wins lawsuit for the Missouri birth and death index; judge smacks down state Dept of Health with scathing judgment, fees, and fines! #announcements
🎉 WE WON! WE WON! 🎉
Reclaim The Records is thrilled to announce that we won our long-running Missouri Sunshine Law suit for the first-ever free and public copies of the Missouri birth index for 1920-2015 and the Missouri death index for 1968-2015! These text indices are finally going to become available for the state of Missouri and are going to go online for free public use, both searchable and downloadable -- and they'll never be locked up by the state again.
And thanks to the somewhat unusual facts of the case, we were also awarded our attorneys fees by the judge! Thanks, Missouri taxpayers!
And in an extremely unusual move, we even were awarded fines against the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), for their four separate "knowing and purposeful" violations of the Missouri Sunshine Law! Fines against government agencies are allowed under Missouri's law, but they're very hard to get in practice, and as far as we know, no one has ever won multiple fines against a state agency all within a single Missouri Sunshine Law case before.
But we did! The judge smacked down DHSS with $12,000 in fines for four separate (and disgustingly well-documented) yes-they-really-did-it-on-purpose knowing and purposeful violations of the law. Mwahahaha.
Read all about it in our latest newsletter!:
Or you can jump right to the judge's fifty-three-page order, in our Motion for Summary Judgment here (PDF).
We're partial to the parts of the ruling where the judge writes sub-headings like "DHSS Executes the Secret Plan" and "DHSS’ Shifting Hourly Rate Charges", and the sentences like "The secret plan advocated by Mr. Land, the former State Registrar—which DHSS followed meticulously—is a textbook case of a purposeful violation of the Sunshine Law." Oh, and also the part where she refers to the state's plan as "devious" and the part where she writes that it "represents an utter disdain for “the public policy of this state". Fun reading!
Our sincere thanks go to our intrepid attorneys Bernie Rhodes and Taryn Nash at Lathrop Gage in Missouri, for shepherding this case through four and half years of hard and careful work. If you should ever feel the need to file a lawsuit under the Missouri Sunshine Law, we recommend hiring them.
Some recent news coverage of our win:
St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Tony Messenger, a recent Pulitzer Prize winner whose beat includes covering Sunshine Law cases, has been tracking and writing about our case for years now:
"Messenger: Judge blasts state of Missouri over ‘blatant’ violation of Sunshine Law"
Here's Dan Margolies at Missouri's NPR affiliate KCUR:
"Court's Ruling In Missouri Open-Records Case Could Clear Way For More Access To COVID-19 Data"
And Glenn E. Rice at the Kansas City Star:
"Judge fines Missouri agency $12K for violating public records law with ‘secret plan’"
For more information about Reclaim The Records and our ongoing work to free genealogical records from recalcitrant and/or naughty government agencies, please check out our website at www.ReclaimTheRecords.org or follow us on Facebook or on Twitter at @ReclaimTheRecs.
And Reclaim The Records is a US 501c3 non-profit organization, and your generous financial support is always very much appreciated. 😁
- Brooke Schreier Ganz
President and Founder, Reclaim The Records
sheltering at home in Mill Valley, California