Judge denies AG's latest motion to dismiss national watchdog's two public records lawsuits

Two public records requests don't demonstrate that a national watchdog group was doing business in Oklahoma, an Oklahoma County judge told attorneys in a hearing Friday morning. In doing so, Judge Patricia G. Parrish denied state Attorney General Mike Hunter's latest motion to dismiss the Campaign for Accountability's two lawsuits for records related to the Tar Creek Superfund site in northeastern Oklahoma.

The Wisconsin-based nonpartisan nonprofit sued first for an audit withheld by then-Attorney General Scott Pruitt and then by Hunter until April 9. Its second lawsuit seeks communications between Pruitt, now head of the Environmental Protection Agency, and Sen. Jim Inhofe about the superfund site.

Hunter's motion to dismiss the lawsuits argued that the Center for Accountability wasn't entitled to sue in Oklahoma because it had not registered to do business in the state. Hunter relied upon two Oklahoma statutes that:

  1. Require out-of-state corporations, including nonprofits, to file with the Oklahoma Secretary of State’s Office before doing business in the state (Okla. Stat. tit. 18, § 1130(B)); and
  2. Prohibit those that don’t register from filing lawsuits in Oklahoma that arise from their business (Okla. Stat. 18, § 1137(A)).

Under Hunter’s reasoning, no newspaper or other news organization incorporated outside Oklahoma could sue here for public records unless it had registered to do business here.

Though the judge refused to dismiss the cases, her reason indicated that the outcome would have been different had the lawsuits been brought by a corporation not registered in Oklahoma that routinely requests records in the state as part of its business.

Hunter was appointed attorney general in February 2017. He faces Gentner Drummond and Angela Bonilla in the Republican primary on June 26. The GOP nominee will face Democrat Mark Myles in the general election Nov. 6.


Joey Senat, Ph.D. Associate Professor OSU School of Media & Strategic Communications Mass Communication Law in Oklahoma

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