Judge Finds That Arkansas District Court Clerk Violated Freedom of Information Act in Lawsuit Pursued by Burr & Forman

Firm News

Burr & Forman announces that its legal team, led by partner Zachary Miller, achieved a significant win for their client, National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS). On Wednesday, August 14, Arkansas Circuit Court Judge Chris Piazza ruled that the defendant, Jennifer Jones, in her official capacity as Clerk of the District Court of Benton County, Arkansas, Bentonville Division, violated the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by refusing to provide court records to a company performing background screening services.  Burr & Forman’s client, NAPBS, is a trade association representing more than 880 background-check providers nationwide.

Judge Piazza ruled that Jones violated FOIA when she refused to release court records on an employment applicant requested by one of NAPBS’s members, Courthouse Concepts of Fayetteville, Arkansas. Although Jones maintained Section VI of the Arkansas Supreme Court’s Administrative Order 19 allows denial of record requests such as the one at issue, the court found that Section VI of Order 19 did not apply as the request was not for “compiled information.”

In open court, Miller successfully argued that Jones could not deny the request on the basis of the court’s computer systems being outdated. He further noted that the refusal to provide the records was keeping job applicants legally required to pass a background check as part of the employment process from going to work.

“This is a significant win with far-reaching implications,” said Miller. "Background screening is becoming an increasingly important requirement for employers, landlords and volunteer groups. Without access to records through the Freedom of Information Act, the process does not work, and innocent people lose."  Miller credited the board of NAPBS and its executive director for having the mettle to defend its members’ right to access critically important public records.

Judge Piazza's summary-judgment ruling ends a year-long lawsuit.

For more than a century, Burr & Forman LLP’s experienced legal team has served clients at the intersection of business and government with local, national, and international interests in numerous industry and practice areas, ranging from commercial litigation and class actions to corporate transactions, including bankruptcy and restructurings. A Southeast regional firm with 360 attorneys and 19 offices in Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, Burr & Forman attorneys draw from a diverse range of resources to help clients achieve their goals and address their complex legal needs. The firm operates as Burr Forman McNair in North Carolina and South Carolina. For more information, visit the firm’s website at www.burr.com.

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