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A Lincoln judge has ordered the state to pay nearly $60,000 in attorneys fees in connection to public-records lawsuits filed by the state's two largest newspapers and the ACLU seeking information on how it got lethal injection drugs.

In June, Lancaster County District Judge Jodi Nelson, in response to open-records lawsuits filed by the Journal Star, Omaha World-Herald and ACLU of Nebraska, ordered the state to release records of communications with its lethal injection drug supplier, as well as several other documents related to Nebraska's efforts to carry out the death penalty.

But she found certain other documents are exempt from disclosure under a state law protecting the identities of members of the state's execution team. Those documents include purchase orders and chemical analysis reports.

The Corrections Department appealed the decision, and the records ordered to be released remain undisclosed.

Oral arguments in the case are set before the Nebraska Supreme Court later this month.

At a hearing last month, the Journal Star, World-Herald and ACLU asked Nelson to award attorneys fees and costs, arguing that they substantially prevailed in the cases.

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In an order this week, she agreed and awarded $59,177 in attorneys fees ($19,518.50 to the Lincoln and Omaha newspapers and $20,140 to the ACLU), plus $249 in costs.

The Attorney General's office had argued that the judge shouldn't award fees and costs, in part because the motion came after the state had filed notice of appeal.

Nelson said that ignored the fact that the request was made in the complaints.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7237 or lpilger@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSpilger.

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