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Does a Public University Need a Protective Order?

by | Mar 14, 2023 | Media Law, Public Records

Colleges and universities that receive public funds are subject to open records law. Are there any limits?

At Oklahoma University, NonDoc Media and their editor-in-chief, Tres Savage, have been engaged in a struggle with OU’s petition for a protective order.

The goal of the protective order: To keep certain documents from an investigation unpublished – and out of the public eye.

The investigation deals with sexual harassment allegations from 2019 against a former OU coach who has already resigned.

Savage requested legal reports from OU in order to write about the case for NonDoc. When OU was not forthcoming, he filed a lawsuit, claiming the university violated the Oklahoma Public Records Act.

As the case went into discovery, OU requested a protective order for the following reasons:

  • They want to preserve the privacy of victims and informants – they’re afraid that exposure in public records will have a chilling effect on cooperation in future investigations.
  • OU wants to protect itself from “the annoyance, harassment, embarrassment, oppression of having confidential materials published.”
  • OU believes that not all public institution records should immediately become public records.

NonDoc and its supporters see the protective order as a deviation from standard newsgathering.

NonDoc and Savage expressed this in a motion to compel turnover of the information – information for which they say they’ve been waiting six months. Stay tuned.

I represent news media, bloggers, publishers, and citizens interested in government access, and others who operate under the First Amendment—public records; public meetings; newsgathering; avoiding defamation lawsuits; suing Anti-SLAPP violators. My job is to help you get the records and access you need, help you get the story, help you get the story without getting arrested, help get the story published without defaming anyone, and then defend the story after publication. 

If you need help with any of these areas and don’t have an attorney already, contact me: [email protected]. This post is not intended to be legal advice and does not form the basis of a lawyer-client relationship.


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