THE LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL; AND THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, Petitioners,
THE EIGHTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT 1 COURT OF THE STATE OF NEVADA, IN AND FOR THE COUNTY OF CLARK; AND THE HONORABLE RICHARD SCOTTI, DISTRICT JUDGE, Respondents, and VERONICA HARTFIELD, A NEVADA RESIDENT; ESTATE OF CHARLESTON HARTFIELD; AND CLARK COUNTY OFFICE OF THE CORONER/MEDICAL EXAMINER, Real Parties in Interest.
petition for a writ of mandamus or prohibition challenging a
district court order granting a preliminary injunction.
McLetchie Shell LLC and Margaret A. McLetchie and Alina M.
Shell, Las Vegas, for Petitioners.
B. Wolfson, District Attorney, and Laura C. Rehfeldt, Deputy
District Attorney, Clark County, for Real Party in Interest
Clark County Office of the Coroner/Medical Examiner.
& Roger and Anthony P. Sgro and Eunice M. Beattie, Las
Vegas, for Real Parties in Interest Veronica Hartfield and
Estate of Charleston Hartfield.
Randazza Legal Group, PLLC and Marc J. Randazza, Las Vegas,
for Amici Curiae.
PICKERING, GIBBONS, and HARDESTY, JJ.
district court enjoined the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the
Associated Press from reporting on a redacted, anonymized
autopsy report that they and other members of the media
obtained through a Nevada Public Records Act request. The
question presented is whether the district court's
preliminary injunction order comports with the First
Amendment. We hold that it does not. While we are deeply
sympathetic to the decedent's family's privacy
concerns, the First Amendment does not permit a court to
enjoin the press from reporting on a redacted autopsy report
already in the public domain. We therefore grant the writ and
vacate the preliminary injunction as an unconstitutional
night of October 1, 2017, a gunman opened fire on a crowd of
concertgoers at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las
Vegas, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds more. Within
days, members of the media, including petitioners Las Vegas
Review-Journal and the Associated Press (collectively, the
Review-Journal), asked the Clark County Coroner for access to
the shooter's and his victims' autopsy reports
pursuant to the Nevada Public Records Act (NPRA), NRS Ch.
239. The Coroner denied the media requests for the
victims' autopsy reports, deeming them confidential.
See NRS 239.010(1) (providing that confidential
government records are not subject to public dissemination).
On November 16, 2017, the Review-Journal filed suit against
the Coroner under NRS 239.011, which gives a party who has
been denied access to a public record the right to sue for an
order requiring the government to provide a copy or permit
inspection of it.
district judge assigned to the NPRA case heard argument on
January 30, 2018, after full briefing. At the end of the
hearing, he orally ruled that the autopsy reports constituted
public records subject to inspection and release but directed
the Coroner to redact the victims' names and personal
identifying information, which the Review-Journal conceded
was appropriate. The next day, January 31, 2018, the Coroner
released the victims' autopsy reports "with the
names, Coroner case number, age and race redacted, "
emailing them first to the Review-Journal then, eight hours
later, to the other news outlets that had requested them. The
Review-Journal reported on the redacted autopsy reports
immediately, Anita Hassan & Rachel Crosby, Coroner
Releases Autopsy Reports of 58 Victims from Las Vegas
Shooting, Las Vegas Review-Journal (Jan. 31, 2018, 4:50
and other members of the press have done so since. See,
e.g., Stephen Sorace, Las Vegas Shooting
Victims' Info Released; Gunman's Data Excluded,
Fox News (Feb. 1, 2018),
Fox 5 KWU-TV (Live news broadcast Feb. 1, 2018),
http://w ww .fox5vegas. ...