OU cites FERPA for moving parking ticket lawsuit to federal court

A University of Oklahoma student who has sued for access to parking citations issued by OU said he will challenge the school's move of the Open Records Act lawsuit to federal court. Joey Stipek believes OU is attempting to disqualify his attorney, Nick Harrison, who is a Presidential Management Fellow with the Small Business Administration.

U.S. law prohibits federal employees from representing clients before a federal court in a matter that involves a substantial federal interest.

In OU's petition, the university argued that Stipek's claim under the state Open Records Act  depends upon the interpretation and application of the federal Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA) and, therefore, involves a "substantial question of federal law."

OU has refused to release electronic copies of parking citations issued to students, claiming the information is confidential under FERPA.

Harrison does not believe OU's reason for moving the case is applicable.

"A case can be removed [from state court] where there's a federal law that's part of the plaintiff's original cause of action," said Harrison. "However, a federal law that the defendant is using as a defense doesn't qualify."

He said contesting the change of courts is "a lengthy process."

"It buys them a few more months, and they still haven't filed a substantive response to Joey Stipek's claims," said Harrison.

FOI Oklahoma presented Harrison with its 2012 Ben Blackstock Award because of his reporting for The Oklahoma Daily as a University of Oklahoma law school student. Harrison also served as an airborne paratrooper in Alaska and completed two combat tours in Afghanistan and Kuwait.


Joey Senat, Ph.D. Associate Professor OSU School of Media & Strategic Communications

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the commentators and do not necessarily represent the position of FOI Oklahoma Inc., its staff, or its board of directors. Differing interpretations of open government law and policy are welcome.