ACLU representing blogger in U of L lawsuit over basketball scan - WDRB 41 Louisville News

ACLU representing blogger in U of L lawsuit over basketball scandal documents

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Represented by the Amercian Civil Liberties Union, a blogger has asked a judge to find that the University of Louisville violated the state’s open records law and rule that documents related to its self-imposed postseason basketball ban should be made public.

In a court filing on Friday, attorneys for Dr. Peter Hasselbacher also asked Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Barry Willett to order U of L to pay attorney’s fees and cost of litigation.

Last month, U of L filed a lawsuit asking a judge to rule the Attorney General was wrong in finding the school violated Kentucky's open records law when it allegedly conducted an "inadequate" search for records related to its self-imposed postseason basketball ban.

Hasselbacher, who was named as the defendant in the suit as required by law because he requested the records, told the Courier-Journal last month that he didn’t have an attorney.

“What a pickle I’ve got myself in,” he told the newspaper, adding however, that “I think the open records process is important and that it needs to be defended."

ACLU of Kentucky Legal Director William Sharp and attorney Amy Cubbage wrote Hasselbacher’s five-page response to the suit, which, at least in part, repeats allegations that U of L did not follow the law.

In an opinion released in August, Kentucky's top lawyer ordered U of L to look more thoroughly for documents used by former President James Ramsey when he decided Feb. 5 to keep the men's basketball team out of the 2016 NCAA tournament.

Hasselbacher, founder and president of the Kentucky Health Policy Institute, had asked for the records Ramsey had "on hand" at the time of the ban's announcement, but U of L denied the request and said those records didn't exist.

Hasselbacher then appealed to the Attorney General's Office. During that review, the office said U of L acknowledged that the investigator it hired, former NCAA compliance official Chuck Smrt, has the investigative records. Smrt, Beshear's office said, is an "agent of the University."

"Thus, the question is whether or not the records in Mr. Smrt's possession are encompassed by and thus responsive to the request. After careful review, we find that they are," the Attorney General's opinion says.

But U of L is arguing that Hasselbacher only asked for what Ramsey "had in hand that caused him to suspend" the team. And the school claims it promptly and properly responded that Ramsey had no documents. 

As for Smrt, the university is claiming that as an "independent outside consultant, (he) is not subject to the Kentucky Open Records Act."

In addition, U of L claims the Attorney General's office "grossly misconstrues" the university's response that Smrt is in possession of records relating to the investigation.

"The University has never stated such," according to the lawsuit.

Attorney General Andy Beshear's office asked to see the records Smrt has, but it said U of L refused and should turn over Smrt's documents that are not exempt under open records laws.

In the lawsuit, U of L argues that request by Beshear's office is "well outside the scope of Hasselbacher's specific open records request."

The university has asked for a court date at the "earliest practicable date," adding that "this action should take precedence on this Court's docket over all other causes," attorney Crag Dilger wrote.

In addition, the lawsuit is asking the judge to find that Smrt is not subject to the open records law and the school properly responded to the initial record's request. The suit is also seeking attorney's fees.

Hasselbacher is named as a defendant in the suit as required by law, according to the suit. U of L said it would rather name the Attorney General. 

Ramsey resigned in July, ending a 14-year tenure at the university.

Katina Powell alleges that former U of L staffer and player Andre McGee asked her to arrange for women to have intimate encounters with players and recruits. Besides the self-imposed ban, U of L is waiting on any sanctions from the NCAA.

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