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EDITORIAL: Judge rules that autopsy reports are public

Another day, another example of the bureaucracy trying to ensure taxpayers remain in the dark.

On Thursday, a District Court judge spurned the Clark County district attorney’s efforts to keep autopsy reports confidential. The case stemmed from a lawsuit filed by the Review-Journal in June after the coroner refused to provide the documents in a number of deaths.

“I found the legal arguments insufficient to justify withholding the information,” said District Judge Jim Crockett.

State law requires that all government records are public unless specifically exempted in the statutes. Yet in far too many cases, public agencies prefer obfuscation to transparency in defiance of the law.

Such intransigence is insulting and costly to taxpayers. Who foots the bill when a bureaucracy goes to court asserting it has the right to operate absent public scrutiny? You do, the very taxpayers who fund that agency.

Yes, autopsy reports can be sensitive, particularly to the family of the deceased. But they are also vital resources to help ensure that those in the criminal justice system adequately perform their duties, particularly when it comes to suspicious deaths. An absence of accountability breeds corruption and deception.

The DA’s office has the right to appeal last week’s decision. Instead, it should do local taxpayers a favor and simply respect the law by complying with Judge Crockett’s common-sense decision.

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