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WPSD, MSU agree to postpone hearing on sanctions

MURRAY – Attorneys for WPSD-TV filed a notice of remand in Calloway Circuit Court this morning, advising that an agreement had been reached with counsel for Murray State University to postpone, indefinitely, the hearing previously scheduled for this afternoon on the station’s motion for more than $415,000 in sanctions in its longstanding dispute with the university over open records requests. 

“Our attorneys and those for Murray State have been discussing an equitable resolution of the matter,” wrote WPSD News Director Perry Boxx in an emailed statement. 

“Pursuant to the Court’s direction in its February 16, 2024 summary judgment order,” today’s filing states, “the parties have been conferring on a resolution of the remaining issues in this case. Additional time is needed to allow the parties to attempt to finalize an agreement on the remaining issues in dispute.”

WPSD filed its motion for over $40,000 in attorneys’ fees and $374,850 in statutory penalties, after Special Judge John Atkins ruled last month that MSU violated the Kentucky Open Records Act by “misus(ing) or misappl(ying)” attorney-client privilege and other exemptions to redact records and by “adopting a near categorical redaction scheme ‘at odds with existing law.’”  

“MSU’s initial categorical redaction and its year-long, stubborn refusal to abandon many of those redactions,” WPSD argued in its motion for fees, “‘reveals a culture of secrecy’ within MSU reflecting a ‘misguided belief that the Open Records Act is merely an ideal—a suggestion to be taken when it is convenient and flagrantly disregarded when it is not.’ 

“Only ‘meaningful’ statutory penalties can pierce that culture of secrecy and put MSU on notice that its willful defiance of the Open Records Act will not be countenanced by Kentucky’s courts.”

In its response to the motion, MSU argued that Atkins’ ruling did not include a finding of willfulness, and therefore, WPSD was not entitled to fees and penalties. In its reply, filed Tuesday, WPSD asserted that the judge granted its motion for summary judgment in full, adopting the station’s arguments in his findings. 

Today, instead of appearing before the judge for oral arguments, the parties announced they are negotiating a resolution.

“When Judge Atkins ruled that Murray State University President Bob Jackson’s administration willfully violated the open records act in a scheme ‘at odds with existing law,’” Boxx’s statement continued, “he expressed the ‘court’s hope that counsel and clients for both sides will use their best efforts to resolve all remaining issues amicably.’ 

“We have been doing that and will continue those discussions. The issues are penalties and our attorneys’ fees. If we are unable to resolve those issues, we look forward to standing before Judge Atkins at a later date.”  

Sentinel Staff

Jessica Paine
I’m Jessica Paine, founder of The Murray Sentinel. You may know me from my time as a citizen journalist, running the Calloway Covid-19 Count page on Facebook, or you may be familiar with my more recent work for another local news outlet. Being that I’m “from here,” you may have known me since I was “knee-high to a grasshopper,” although you knew me as Jessica Jones. But whether you know me or not, I’m glad you found your way here.

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