BY THE COURT
Kansas Open Records Act provides in K.S.A. 45-216(a) that it
is the policy of this state that public records shall be open
for inspection by any person unless specifically provided
otherwise by statute.
Consistent with the policy that public records generally be
open for inspection, the Kansas Open Records Act provides in
K.S.A. 2016 Supp. 45-222(c) that a public agency denying
disclosure of a record has the burden of proof in court to
show that its action was proper.
a defendant files a motion to dismiss the plaintiff's
claim because it fails to state any viable claim for legal
relief, the district court must accept the facts included in
the plaintiff's petition. The court cannot resolve
factual disputes on this motion, so it must resolve any doubt
about the facts in the plaintiff's favor.
a plaintiff's petition presents allegations that, if
true, would give the district court discretion to order
disclosure of public records, that petition cannot be
dismissed on a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted.
from Wyandotte District Court; Daniel A. Duncan, judge.
Opinion filed May 26, 2017. Reversed and remanded.
Derrick A. Pearce, of Peterson & Associates, P.C., of
Kansas City, Missouri, for appellant.
A. Wilson, assistant counsel, Unified Government of Wyandotte
County/Kansas City, for appellees.
Leben, P.J., Powell and Schroeder, JJ.
Kansas Open Records Act begins with a simple proposition:
"It is declared to be the public policy of this state
that public records shall be open for inspection by any
person unless otherwise provided by this act." K.S.A.
45-216(a). The Act also provides that it "shall be
liberally construed and applied to promote" this policy
of openness. K.S.A. 45-216(a). And in any court action
seeking to enforce disclosure of records, a public agency
refusing to produce records has the burden of proof to show
that it wasn't required to disclose the records. K.S.A.
2016 Supp. 45-222(c).
these concepts in mind, we consider what happened when Trina
Green asked to see records about the shooting of her son by
law-enforcement officers from the Wyandotte County
Sheriff's Department. Specifically, she asked to see the
records about the shooting from the sheriff's department
and the Kansas City (Kansas) Police Department. Those
departments refused her request, citing an exception to
disclosure for criminal-investigation records that's
found in a statute, K.S.A. 2016 Supp. 45-221(a)(10).
exception isn't iron-clad, though. It provides that the
district court "may order disclosure of such records,
subject to such conditions as the court may impose, if the
court finds that the disclosure" is in the public
interest; wouldn't interfere with a law-enforcement
investigation; wouldn't reveal confidential sources,
techniques, or agents; wouldn't endanger anyone's
safety; and wouldn't reveal any specific identifying
information of the victim of a sexual offense (like the name
or phone number of the victim). K.S.A. 2016 Supp.
45-221(a)(10)(A)-(F). By providing that the district court
"may order disclosure, " the statute tells
us that the district court has discretion when making this
judgment call. Given the public policy for disclosure,
though, one would think that if the court finds disclosure
would be "in the public interest" and none of the
harms listed in K.S.A. 2016 Supp. 45-221(a)(10)(A)-(F) would
arise on disclosure, then the records should be disclosed.
this background, what happened in the district court when
Green sued to get the court to order production of records