In January 2015, ESPN sued the University of Notre Dame arguing that it violated Indiana public records law by denying their reporter’s request for campus police department incident reports related to specific athletes. Notre Dame refused on the ground that their police department is not an actual public law enforcement agenct and therefore does not have to provide documentation.
In April 2015, A St. Joseph County judge ruled in favor of the university, citing that Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act does allow for a private party to act as a police unit but not fall under public scrutiny. The judge did note that while it is the letter of the law, he found “discomfort” in it.
ESPN appealed that ruling to the Indiana Court of Appeals and the three-judge panel overturned the lower court’s decision, They ruled that the campus police is in fact a public entity subject to state records laws. They did, however, note that some exemptions may apply and they ordered a lower court to decide if the requested records should ultimately be released.
Notre Dame had no comment on the ruling. An ESPN spokesperson said on Tuesday that “We are pleased with the appellate court’s decision to support the public’s right to open records, and we continue to report on this story.”
ESPN has already run the story it was initially trying to get information in, an investigation into the interactions between local police and college athletes at major colleges. That story showed that while results are not cut and dry, high-profile athletes often get preferential treatment based on multiple factors. Whether or not that happened at Notre Dame, we may be able to find out soon enough.