Two state offices are going head to head in the courtroom after the Department of Justice tried to post investigative findings online into the Department of Public Health’s handling of child fatality cases.
It’s a complicated case with several parties involved, but what it really comes down to is individual privacy rights versus the public’s right to know. Since 2014, the Family and Child Ombudsman Division has released 55 reports outlining how specific child abuse cases have been handled, in part by DPHHS.
The DOJ has tried to publish those findings online for everyone to see; but DPHHS doesn’t want that information going public.
In Monday’s hearing, DPHHS Attorney Andrew Huff said, "More importantly than that, your honor, though, there's details about abuse and neglect, about children and families, there's details about sexual assault, substance abuse, domestic disputes, attempted suicide, mental health specifics, hospitalizations..."
Assistant Attorney General Aislinn Brown argued, "The reports are kept confidential throughout the process through a variety of methods, as I mentioned names are not used at any point, and further redactions further protect confidential information."
It’s worth noting that this case has spiraled from a question of privacy over releasing these reports, to the authority of the Ombudsman office as a whole-- with DPHHS arguing in part that the reports have become “hostile and adversarial.” DOJ argues that’s not the case, in fact once they make these reports DPHHS is not required to even act on them, they simply serve informational purposes.
The judge did not make a decision in today’s hearing, but we will continue to follow the progress of this case as it makes its way through the court system.