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Clark County commissioners vote to fight open records ruling

Updated November 7, 2017 - 7:56 pm

The Clark County Commission voted Tuesday to appeal a District Court ruling that autopsy records are public.

Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak and Commissioner Jim Gibson cast the two dissenting votes against Clark County Coroner John Fudenberg’s request to appeal the ruling, which said the Las Vegas Review-Journal was entitled to the records.

“I just felt they made their case to the judge, and the judge ruled it was open,” Sisolak said. “When it’s a close call, I’d rather be on the side of transparency.”

Sisolak said staff did not provide estimates for the cost of the appeal, but county documents say taxpayers will pick up the bill for “court fees, possibly attorney fees, and other related expenses.”

“Tuesday’s commission vote ensures more tax dollars will be wasted on yet another doomed effort to keep important government records secret,” Review-Journal Managing Editor Glenn Cook said. “Autopsy reports are public records across the country to ensure accountability in investigations.”

The county had argued that the coroner could withhold or redact the records based on a 1982 attorney general’s opinion. The county also said state law prohibits the release of records reviewed by oversight committees.

But District Judge Jim Crockett rejected the county’s arguments in September, saying nothing in state law exempts autopsies from public review.

Commissioners Susan Brager, Chris Giunchigliani, Marilyn Kirkpatrick and Lawrence Weekly voted to appeal.

Contact Arthur Kane at akane@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ArthurMKane on Twitter.

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