Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The Cape Cod Times asked for the names of reserve deputy sheriff officers in Barnstable County, MA. The paper was investigating a criminal probe into a car dealership owned by a reserve deputy sheriff, who was later indicted on larceny charges and resigned from the reserve program.

But the Sheriff refused the request for the names, citing privacy reasons. He said the reserve deputies worked for the county's Deputy Sheriff's Association, a private organization which the sheriff claimed was not subject to public records law. In December of 2003, Superior Court Judge David A. McLaughlin ruled in the sheriff's favor. The paper appealed the case to the state's high court.

But the state's Supreme Court overturned that decision today and ruled that the sheriff must now turn over the names of the more than 200 reserve deputies. According to the Boston Globe story "Barnstable's reserve deputy sheriffs are civilians allowed to carry replicas of deputy sheriff badges without any law enforcement training. They raise money and participate in charitable causes. They do take an oath promising to uphold the duties of the sheriff's office, although they are rarely called to act on it."

In overturning the lower court, the Supreme Judicial Court wrote "Any constitutional protection of individual privacy does not insulate the disclosure of the names and addresses of those who have applied to, and been appointed by, a public official, regardless of the scope of their subsequent responsibilities"


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