(Case No 3:10-0793, U.S. District Court, Western District, Memphis, Judge Anderson)
ACLU-TN Cooperating Attorney: Edmund J. Schmidt III, Law Offices of Eddie Schmidt
Plaintiffs: Richard Jones
Defendants: Phil Bredesen, Governor of Tennessee; Robert Cooper, Jr., Tennessee Attorney General; David H. Lillard, Jr., Tennessee State Treasurer; et al.
Richard Jones, an Ohio-based civil rights advocate, regularly makes open records requests as he investigates various activities throughout the country for the Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network. On May 10, 2010, Jones filed an open records request with the Public Record Coordinator for the City of Memphis, requesting a copy of the December 2008 winning bid for State Advocacy/State Lobbying Services. His request was denied because he is not a citizen of Tennessee.
ACLU-TN filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the constitutionality of the Tennessee Public Records Act’s citizenship requirement. The lawsuit alleged that the Tennessee Public Records Act, by providing access to public records to citizens of Tennessee but not to non-citizens, discriminates against non-citizens by violating the Privileges and Immunities Clause of Article IV, section 2, of the United States Constitution. The Federal District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee rejected the argument and upheld the citizenship requirement. We appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
While on appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court took up a similar case out of Virginia, McBurney v. Young, 133 S. Ct. 421 (2012), and held that a state may limit access to public records to its own citizens. The Sixth Circuit followed the Supreme Court’s ruling and upheld Tennessee’s citizen requirement on August 16, 2013.
Richard Jones v. City of Memphis, et al. – Complaint (August 24, 2010)