Franke, Schultz & Mullen, PC | FSM Partner Nielsen Obtains Favorable Ruling in Western District Court of Appeals
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FSM Partner Nielsen Obtains Favorable Ruling in Western District Court of Appeals

Firm partner Brad Nielsen obtained a favorable opinion from the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District, for clients City of Chillicothe, Missouri and its former police chief, Richard Knouse.   Nielsen’s clients had been sued by Livingston County Sheriff Steven Cox who claimed Chief Knouse and other city employees violated the Sunshine Law which contained a provision prohibiting the playing of 9-1-1 calls to the general public by improperly playing an emergency 9-1-1 call to others who should not have heard the tape.   Sheriff Cox claimed emotional and reputational damages stemming from the allegedly improper airing of the 9-1-1 tape which referenced alleged improper behavior by Sheriff Cox. 

Nielsen originally won the case at the trial court level, and Cox appealed the decision of the Livingston County Circuit Court, which had been authored by specially sitting trial judge Daren Adkins.  The Western District Court of Appeals convened a special division of the court to hear arguments on the campus of William Jewell College where the three judges on the panel, Chief Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court Zel Fischer and Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District Judges Cynthia Martin and Gary Witt attended college. 

In its Opinion, the Court of Appeals held that Cox’s legal theories were negated by the very purpose of the Missouri Sunshine Law.  The Court found that while there are certain remedies calling for damages when public entities keep its records and documents closed, there are not remedies and damage provisions when public records are opened.  Ultimately, the Court concluded that since there were no damage provisions in the 9-1-1 statute, Sheriff Cox had no recognizable cause of action.