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Newspaper wins open-records case

Wisconsin News

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Jan. 8 that a Mauston newspaper has the right to get complete copies of legal bills connected with an investigation into a former sheriff's deputy.

The bills were submitted by a private law firm which did work for the county's insurance company in the matter. And the county had provided redacted records to the Star-Times newspaper in 2010, citing attorney-client privilege on the items that were blacked out.

But a state appeals court said the documents are covered under the State Open Records Law, even though private firms were involved.

On a 4-to-3 vote, the Supreme Court said the legal bills were public records because they were produced while the law firm was working for Juneau County.

The state Justice Department said the records should have been private because they were produced by private parties. Justices Pat Roggensack, Shirley Abrahamson, Ann Walsh Bradley, and Pat Crooks voted to release the entire documents.