ACLU Suing Calvert Sheriff’s Office Over Public Records Request Fees
ACLU Suing Calvert Sheriff’s Office Over Public Records Request Fees

TheBayNet.com reached out to the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office regarding the pending lawsuit. A spokeswoman for the department said that “at the advice of counsel, we are not at liberty to comment on pending litigation.”

CALVERT COUNTY, Md. – Compelled by disturbing accounts from local residents about invasive police searches of Black people, and the Sheriff’s demand that more than $12,000 be paid to see documents related to searches, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland today sued Calvert County Sheriff Mike Evans and his office in order to access this vital information that should be made public under Maryland’s Public Information Act (MPIA). Support and organizing for local police accountability are growing in Calvert County, and the community has a right to know how law enforcement treats all residents.

The ACLU contends that Sheriff Evans’s use of burdensome fees to withhold public information that might reveal police misconduct is part of a troubling new statewide pattern, in response to Anton’s Law – the 2021 law named for Eastern Shore teenager Anton Black who was murdered in 2018 by an officer with a long record of past misconduct that was concealed by local officials. Anton’s Law amended the Maryland Public Information Act to make records of policing complaints and discipline more transparent and available, to help guard against police abuse.

“Free access to the truth about harm caused by the law enforcement is key to insuring against repetition,” said Dara Johnson, legal advocacy associate. “Ultimately, it’s about changing the culture of police misconduct that has plagued Calvert County for too long; shining a light on the reality of harassment and abuse practiced by the Sheriff’s Office, especially against Black and Brown community members, is vital to holding them accountable.”

In July 2021 – prompted by complaints made to the ACLU about abusive and unconstitutional conduct by the Calvert Sheriff’s Office – the organization requested documents related to strip searches and body cavity searches conducted by sheriff’s personnel since 2017. Among the search records sought were any video and/or audio recordings, including dashboard camera footage and/or body camera footage, as well as field observation reports, criminal investigation/case reports, arrest reports and charging documents.

As is the ACLU’s standard practice in its work to advance civil rights, the organization’s request sought a waiver of charges for the request under the MPIA provision governing requests made in the public interest. In response, the Sheriff’s Office conceded that it does have documents responsive to the ACLU request, but rejected the request for waiver of fees despite the clear importance of this information to the public. The Sheriff’s Office refuses to produce the public records unless the ACLU pays the full amount of fees it seeks to charge — starting at $12,000, at minimum.

“The General Assembly instructed that agencies should not charge fees to access public information where waiving fees would be in the public interest,” said Adam Abelson, a partner at Zuckerman Spaeder LLP, ACLU’s co-counsel in the lawsuit. “As set forth in the complaint, the Calvert Sheriff’s Office’s denial of the ACLU’s fee waiver was arbitrary and capricious, and thus we are asking the Circuit Court to order that the waiver be granted and the responsive documents produced.”

The team involved in filing this legal action includes Adam Abelson, Justin Lewis, and D’Ann Vermilye of Zuckerman Spaeder LLP, and Deborah JeonGina Elleby, and Dara Johnson of the ACLU of Maryland.

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29 Comments

  1. Waaaaah. Thanks joe. Unity. Safety. Afghanistan. Ukraine. Relying on Russia for oil. Shutting down Keystone. Brilliant.

    1. That has nothing to do with this article or court case, stop gaslighting and keep your opinion to yourself

    1. Right. I thought the same thing. How grateful am I that we have a responsive chapter here in MD

  2. THEY NEED TO GO AFTER THE ST.MARY, COUNTY SHERIFFS OFFICE FOR THE SAME THING AND EVEN MORE WRONG DOING OF BLACK AND BROWN PEOPLE

  3. It’s not just there I made a request to Maryland State Police and they wanted me to pay $20,000 in fees for data they were already capturing. They gave the exact same information I requested to another for only $21 bucks.

  4. Most sheriffs departments in most states charge for records. You can’t say it’s ok for some but not others. They’re not saying you can’t obtain the records they’re just saying they have the right to charge a fee. By the way so does the health department, MVA, social security, etc. so if you’re going to sue one make sure you fairly cover your basis with everyone. This won’t hold in court.

  5. 13% 9f the population commits 50% of the crime. If the shoe fits wear it. After all, there can be no equality without quality.

  6. There doing the same thing in magnolia Ms they want me to pay for my husband. Because they have done him wrong and they know if I get ahold of that I will be able to prove it all with the paperwork I already have they have refused to give me his records told me I had to have an attorney to get them.

  7. This is progress in the right direction! Now, what about Charles County Sheriffs Department?

  8. There is an ongoing search for local residents to serve on the police accountability board. Time to sign up.

  9. I grew up in southern Maryland, lived in Calvert, Charles and St Mary’s. They’re all corrupt, unethical and immoral with certain aspects of policing, not to mention lazy… only when they need to get their numbers up will you see them doing any real work. Along with other law suits and, investigations by federal agencies and soooo many complaints by residents….if it’s so bad then perhaps it’s time to elect a new sheriff.

  10. If a certain group would stop commiting nearly ALL of the criminal activity, law enforcement would have no reason to step up their efforts on this group. It’s simple mathematics. Focus resources on the problem. Slow joe doesn’t see it this way. He prefers to focus on pronouns and gender benders.

  11. If rats are damaging your house, you focus on the rats. If seagulls aren’t damaging your house, you don’t focus on them. If you spend half your time on the rats and the other half on the seagulls, the rats will continue to be a problem.

    1. Yes, but that is different. You are talking about reality, when this is all about political smoke and mirrors. Facts don’t matter, it’s all about perceived imagery by a few and them forcing it upon everyone else, because it’s someone else’s fault, not their own or so they want everyone to believe.
      FJB!!!

  12. Taxes, fees, etc. is how government employees are paid. If you want a barrage of information that takes days and weeks to find, act up, etc. do you think that the taxpayers have to pay your company’s requests? The ACLU has millions and if not billions of dollars so fork it over or no cookie for you!

  13. This will require many hrs over what the county has budgeted for staff. But I get it. Why wait
    Let the punishment begin. I don’t believe that dollar amount is off base. Every agency in the county is playing catch up after all the different coronavirus related backups. This will require big overtime.
    I would think the aclu would realize this and offer to pay the requied amount neccessary to put together this long laundry list of materials. They can to take one for the team. If only this once.

  14. About time to much is happening and being covered up by the good old boys. Look at who he hires and go figure.

  15. When my daughter lived in Maryland, they would stop her ,and she is half white and half black, but they look at the black side, not the mix side

  16. 12 thousand wow,does that go into Evans retirement,keep the price high so the law can get away with what happened earlier in their careers…hide it away

  17. So these fees are overbearing for a national organization that cherry picks racially devise cases involving current criminals.. but not the average citizens like us. ACLU has fallen so far

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