Ga. high court asks Attorney General Carr’s opinion on access to public hospital records

The Georgia Supreme Court has asked Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr to weigh in on whether the public should continue to have access to records of public hospitals, like Atlanta-based Northside, that are restructured to be operated by nonprofits.

The Georgia First Amendment Foundation recently argued before the Georgia Supreme Court that business records at Atlanta’s Northside Hospital should be open to public inspection.

The public’s right to access such records has been recognized since 1995. But a recent challenge by Northside cast doubt on that precedent, and, after hearing oral argument from the parties in mid-April, the state Supreme Court asked Carr for his views.

Here’s the history. In 1995, the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a request by the Marietta Daily Journal for access to the records and meetings of privately restructured public hospitals in Cobb, Cherokee, Douglas and Paulding counties Then-attorney general Michael Bowers strongly supported public access, arguing in a friend of the court brief that “[t]hose who effectively control the functions or the assets of public agencies which are subject to the open government statutes are themselves subject to these same laws.”

The Georgia First Amendment Foundation, then less than a year old, weighed in as well, contending “the delegation of public responsibilities to private entities cannot operate to shroud the public’s window on their execution.”

GFAF continues to strongly believe that state law demands the operation of public assets like Northside Hospital be subject to public oversight, as it argued in a friend of the court brief filed with the Georgia Supreme Court in the Northside case in April.

The case will have an impact on Georgians’ ability to access records of public hospitals operated by nonprofits throughout the state.

Read recent media coverage of the case: