Media of Nebraska, Inc., a coalition of newspapers and broadcasters, is going to court to fight the state Department of Corrections’ decision to ignore Nebraska’s public records statutes by withholding records to conceal the identity of its lethal injection drug supplier.
Media of Nebraska filed a complaint in intervention in Lancaster County District Court Friday aimed at compelling the corrections department to release government records associated with the drug supplier. The corrections agency has denied requests for the records from the Lincoln Journal Star, the Omaha World-Herald and the ACLU.
The state agency has released similar records in the past, but it is concealing them now for reasons that state officials have refused to fully explain.
In its legal filing, Media of Nebraska claims that both the inadequate explanation and the concealing of the records itself are violations of the Nebraska Public Records Act.
Media of Nebraska is backed by the Nebraska Press Association and Nebraska Broadcasters Association. Media of Nebraska represents both groups as an advocate in the courts and the Legislature on issues concerning public access to government meetings and records.
The complaint in intervention was filed as part of a lawsuit between the ACLU and the corrections department. In the lawsuit, which was filed Dec. 1, the ACLU is also claiming the state is violating public records statutes.
While the ACLU actively opposes the death penalty, Media of Nebraska takes no position on the death penalty itself. Its membership includes news organizations with editorial positions on both sides of the execution debate.
However, all of the state’s news organizations support public access to government records as required by the Nebraska Public Records Act.
“The people of Nebraska spoke loud and clear at the ballot box last year that the death penalty needed to be saved,” said Allen Beermann, former Nebraska Secretary of State who is executive director of the Nebraska Press Association. “Our only interest is to make sure any execution is done through an open, above-board and legal process.”