FARMINGTON — A move by civil liberties groups to force public disclosure of Utah’s Jail Standards is headed to trial.
At issue is whether claimed copyright protections trump the public’s interest in seeing the standards, which govern operations in Utah’s county jails.
In a telephone conference Wednesday afternoon, 2nd District Judge David Connors and attorneys for Davis County and the civil liberties groups discussed next steps.
David Reymann, representing the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah and the Disability Law Center, said Thursday he expects a trial will be scheduled to take place within the next few months.
The trial before Connors will focus on the county’s argument that it cannot release the portions of the jail standards covered by the copyright interest of jail consultant Gary DeLand, who wrote the standards for the Utah Sheriffs’ Association.
After seven people died in the Davis County Jail over a 19-month period in 2016-17, the civil liberties groups sought release of the Utah Jail Standards and jail inspection reports filed by the Davis jail staff and Sheriffs’ Association inspectors.
The Utah State Records Committee in 2018 upheld the county’s refusal to release the documents, prompting the civil libertarians to sue for their release in 2nd District Court.
In a September decision, Connors ruled that the inspection reports are public documents, but he said he would not release them until he reviewed any redactions the county might make to protect jail security.
But Wednesday the county told the judge no redactions will be necessary, Reymann said, adding that he now expects to receive the inspection documents from the county within a few weeks.
Michael Kendall, on the county’s staff of civil attorneys, has declined to comment on the case while it is active.
The records fight continues against a backdrop of wrongful death litigation, new state regulations, and counties’ own reform efforts since more than two dozen people died in county jails in 2016.
Two federal court civil suits alleging inadequate medical care led to Davis inmates’ deaths remain in progress; the Utah Legislature now requires counties to submit annual reports of jail deaths to the state; and the new Weber and Davis county sheriffs this year have launched a series of initiatives to improve the handling of inmates.