Judge Rules: Inmate Can Request Public Records

The Associated Press is reporting that Superior Court Judge Glenna Hall from Washington state’s King County has ruled that inmate Allan Parmelee could not be stopped from making public records requests.

Parmelee is a convicted arsonist who was imprisoned for firebombing cars of two attorneys. Since his imprisonment he has been filing public records requests seeking to obtain information on prosecutors, prison guards, state troopers, judges and other people who helped convict him.

Parmelee has filed hundreds of public records requests since his imprisonment.

Prosecutor Dan Satterberg asked Hall to allow his office to ignore the pending requests and also to bar Parmelee from filing additional public records requests unless he obtains court permission.

Satterberg believes that Parmelee is using the requests to harrrass law enforcement officials.

Judge Hall’s decision stated that Satterberg’s legal argument against the requests stretched public records laws.

Hall’s decision requires that some of Parmelee’s pending requests be filled — such as his requests for pictures of King County employees, including judges; lists of names, job titles and pay scales. They all are public records.

Hall stated “He has been characterized as not only annoying or vocal, but violent,” she wrote. “Even so, the law requires the court to presume that access to the public records he seeks is in the public interest, and not make him show his purpose.”

Parmelee stated that he was overall pleased with the ruling.

The prosecutor’s office is deciding whether or not to appeal the decision.

Parmelee was convicted at a second trial in 2004 of first-degree arson for firebombing one vehicle belonging to his ex-wife’s divorce lawyer and another belonging to an attorney who represented his roommate’s ex-girlfriend.

His first trial ended in a mistrial because he was found to have personal information about the jurors.

Under the Washington’s public records law, much personal information is exempt from release.

If a record is public, agencies can’t decide to release it to one person but not another. There is no limit on how many public record requests person can file.

Source: Associated Press