Local Press File Amicus Brief Opposing AG Jeff Landry's Attempt to Seal His Lawsuit Against Advocate Reporter
AG Jeff Landry is suing Advocate reporter Andrea Gallo after she filed public records requests seeking copies of sexual harassment complaints against a member of his staff
Cover photo by Leilani Hardee, Creative Commons SSA 3.0
Local press organizations including the Louisiana Press Association, Gray Media Group, The Lens, and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press have filed an amicus brief supporting Andrea Gallo in her ongoing battle with Louisiana Attorney General (AG) Jeff Landry.
Landry is suing Gallo after she filed several public records requests seeking copies of sexual harassment complaints against Pat Magee, the head of the AG office’s criminal division, as well as records of how the complaints were handled. Gallo filed the requests on December 4, Jan. 4, and Jan 22. The first two requests were denied on the grounds that the requested records were part of an ongoing investigation. Following the last request, Landry’s lawyers notified The Advocate that they were withholding the records due to a constitutional right to privacy and confidentiality policies within the AG’s office.
Advocate lawyer Scott Sternberg notified Landry’s office that Civil Service guidance is not an exception to public records law and threatened legal action should the AG’s office continue noncompliance. Shortly after, Landry filed suit against Gallo, requesting that a judge deny her public records requests and asking that the proceedings be sealed.
“The Attorney General’s attempt to completely conceal this matter from public view implicates fundamental constitutional rights of freedom of speech and public access to judicial records and proceedings,” the amicus brief reads. “The First Amendment guarantees the public access to both civil and criminal judicial proceedings.” The brief goes on to conclude:
“Sealing all proceedings and all judicial records in this matter would violate the First Amendment, the Louisiana Constitution, and common law. Likewise, the gag order sought by the Petitioner runs afoul of the First Amendment. Taken together, they would secret the entire existence of this proceeding from public view. Accordingly, for all the reasons set out herein, Amici urge the Court to deny the Petitioner’s request to seal these proceedings and silence the parties.”