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March 14, 2018

FFRF Sued Kentucky Jail for Records Related to “Night of Prayer” (2019)

On October 6, 2017, FFRF requested records from Laurel County, Kentucky Jailer Jamie Mosley related to a "Night of Prayer" held at Laurel County Correctional Center (LCCC) on August 29, 2017. During that event, Laurel County citizens and churches were invited to the jail to pray for inmates, their families, their victims, and jail staff. The jail erected a tent on the premises for the event where Christian ministers, community members, and staff gathered and a local church choir performed. Inmates were taken from their cells and escorted to the tent to interact with the crowd. The main event of the evening saw attendees locking hands and forming a "prayer chain" throughout every floor of the facility.

FFRF sent four specific requests for LCCC's records related to the Night of Prayer and two specific requests for records related to substance abuse programming and religious programming. A few weeks later, Jailer Mosley provided a few responsive records, but stated that he was withholding the vast majority of the requested records based on a variety of exemptions set forth in Kentucky's state law, many of which were inapplicable and nonsensical. For example, he claimed that turning over certain records would render the jail vulnerable to a terrorist attack, or that producing certain records would be overly burdensome while at the same time claiming that the jail is not in possession of the records at all.

On November 17, 2017, FFRF asked the Kentucky Attorney General's Office to review the jail's response. On December 21, 2017, the Attorney General issued a formal opinion stating that the Jailer Mosley and the Laurel County Correctional Center had violated the Kentucky Open Records Act in their response. Jailer Mosley and LCCC had 30 days to appeal that opinion but did not. Kentucky statute therefore provides that the Attorney General's opinion has the force of law. Consistent with that opinion, FFRF sued to obtain additional records.

FFRF filed suit in the Laurel County Circuit Court in London, KY to receive additional records. Michele Henry of CraigHenry PLC handled the case on behalf of FFRF.

After FFRF sued, the Defendants provided additional records and provided testimony saying that they did not have additional materials to produce. On Oct. 21, 2019, the court ordered that FFRF was entitled to specific policies that were responsive to its request, but that it otherwise was not entitled to additional records. The court found that the Defendants did not “willfully” violate the records act and so the court did not award damages or attorneys fees.