Sheriff won't appeal public record ruling

Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters will not challenge a June Oregon Court of Appeals ruling requiring his office to release the names of concealed handgun license holders from 2006 and 2007 to the Mail Tribune.

The county also will pay the newspaper's request for nearly $20,674 in legal expenses.

"We are not filing an appeal," Winters said Wednesday.

The county had until Wednesday to ask the Oregon Supreme Court to review the Court of Appeals decision but chose not to.

Winters referred questions about the reasons for the county's decision to Frank Hammond, Jackson County counsel.

Hammond said attorney-client privilege bars him from discussing why the county decided to accept the ruling.

He said he's assigned an attorney at the county counsel's office to obtain the handgun license information for the Mail Tribune but said he did not immediately know when the documents would be available.

Hammond said the county would pay the newspaper's legal expenses for the case, as required by statute.

The Mail Tribune requested the list as part of its reporting on a lawsuit by Shirley Katz, a South Medford High School teacher who challenged the Medford School District's policy restricting employees from bringing weapons on campus.

The newspaper never planned to publish the names of license holders, Editor Bob Hunter has said.

Rather, the newspaper wanted the list of names in order to count how many license holders were teachers who could potentially carry guns to school, he said.

Katz's lawsuit was ultimately dismissed by the appeals court.

In June, a three-justice panel of the appeals court upheld a Jackson County Circuit Court ruling that determined Winters had no right to deny a Mail Tribune request for copies of concealed handgun licenses because the licenses are public records.

Winters had argued concealed handgun licenses are security measures exempt from mandatory disclosure and releasing names would unreasonably invade the personal privacy of licensees.

But the appeals court concluded the sheriff made a blanket decision not to release any of the licensees' names and failed to meet the requirement of the law that exemptions have to be proven on an individual basis and with sufficient justification.

Since the newspaper filed the lawsuit in October 2007, the sheriff has changed the concealed handgun license application to include an optional confidentiality request in which applicants state whether they are seeking a license as a personal safety measure and whether they want their information to be kept confidential.

Whether a confidentiality request is enough to exempt a handgun license from public disclosure is still untested.

Paris Achen is a reporter at the Mail Tribune. Reach her at 541-776-4459 or e-mail

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