Isthmus v. Madison Police Department

Case Name: Red Card Media, LLC d/b/a Isthmus Publishing v. Madison Police Department

Type of Case: Open Records

Court: Dane County Circuit Court

Case Number: 18-cv-290

Filed On: February 1, 2018

Current Status: Settled by release of records, admission of wrongdoing, and payment of attorney fees and costs

Wisconsin law requires record custodians to fulfill record requests “as soon as possible and without delay.”  The Madison Police Department has failed to produce records requested in December 2016 even though Isthmus paid for 729 pages of responsive records in March 2017.

Veteran reporter Gil Halsted and Isthmus were seeking records on an incident involving internal concern over the conduct of a former MPD officer.  On December 7, 2016, Halsted sent a records request to Lt. John Radovan, records custodian for MPD, while working with Isthmus staff writer Dylan Brogan on a potential story. After Isthmus agreed to narrow the scope of its request, MPD identified 729 pages of responsive records and Isthmus paid $182.25 in fees for those records in March. Over the next five months, Radovan reassured Isthmus many times that delivery of the records was imminent. The lieutenant finally indicated in early August that he had finished redactions. When the records still weren’t produced several weeks later, Isthmus asked assistant city attorney Roger Allen for an update on the request. On Aug. 29, Allen responded, “I have spoken with my client [MPD] and we will try to expedite this.” There has been no communication from the city since.

We filed suit to compel the release of the records.  When the court issued an alternative writ of mandamus commanding the department to produce the records or show cause why they shouldn’t have to, they immediately released the records.  The department took the unusual (and praiseworthy) step of admitting and owning up to their mistake, and the case was settled.

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