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Judge orders Walker administration to produce open records (August 18, 2015)

The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit Dec. 17, 2014 in Dane County Circuit Court, Wis., charging that Wisconsin open records law was violated by Theodore Nickel, state Office of the Commissioner of Insurance and Commissioner.

FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott made a series of open records requests of the Office of the Commissioner after a reported agency decision that Wisconsin's contraceptive mandate, known as the Contraceptive Equity Law, would no longer be enforced because it was preempted by the June 30, 2014 Hobby Lobby ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. FFRF and many other observers disagreed, since the Religious Freedom Restoration Act under which the ruling was decided applies only to the federal government, not states.

FFRF learned of documents in OCI's possession that should have been provided in response to the records requests, but were withheld. FFRF's suit charged that OCI violated numerous portions of the open records law when it failed to provide the documents, and sought an order directing the defendants to produce the records and award reasonable attorneys' fees, damages and other costs.

On August 18, 2015, Circuit Court Judge Amy Smith ordered the defendants to provide a series of emails to the plaintiffs. The court also ordered the defendants to pay $100 in statutory damages and $4,174 in attorneys fees.

The case was handled for FFRF by Christa Westerberg of the firm Bender Westerberg LLC.