A Cole County judge has dismissed the lawsuit alleging the state Senate was violating Missouri’s open records and meetings law.
The suit accused the Senate and three senators of violating the Sunshine Law by keeping liberal advocacy group Progress Missouri from videotaping some Senate hearings. The Senate countered that the state Constitution gives it the authority to set rules for its hearings, including rules to control who records.
Cole County Judge Jon Beetem said the Senate is operating within the powers granted to it by the state Constitution, and it is up to the courts to protect that authority.
“The inquiry ends here,” Beetem wrote.
Beetem further said there is no right granted by the U.S. Constitution to “personally” record or photograph open government meetings.
Progress Missouri is “considering its options.” Director Sean Nicholson called the dismissal disappointing.
“We don’t think that the Senate should be able to ignore the sunshine law or any other valid law, for that matter,” Nicholson told Missourinet.
The state Senate’s Republican leadership issued a statement in response to the dismissal.
“We are pleased with the judge’s decision to dismiss the case,” the statement reads. “Missouri’s Constitution establishes three coequal branches of government, the legislative, executive and judicial. The Constitution also allows the Senate to adopt its own rules relating to its internal proceedings. The judge’s decision appropriately recognizes the authority of the Senate. All Senate meetings are open to the public.”
Nicholson said in some senses, the lawsuit has already been a success from his perspective.
“Senator [Mike] Parson, for instance, has announced a change in policy in how he’s going to be conducting his hearings,” said Nicholson. “Earlier this year he stopped all still photography, all videos, from the press and from members of the public in his hearing, and he said he’s going to change his way.”