Several years back, transit activist Ben Ross and Action Committee for Transit sought documents from the Town of Chevy Chase regarding the town’s heavy investment in lawyers to fight against the Purple Line. Chevy Chase first produced some documents but later sought to impose fees in advance for the production of the requested records. Instead, Ross and ACT sued, and after losing in the Circuit Court, yesterday prevailed in a published opinion of the Court of Special Appeals.
Bethesda Magazine has the story:
An activist group supporting the Purple Line won a legal victory Thursday when the Maryland Court of Special Appeals ruled the Town of Chevy Chase wrongly sought high fees for copies of public documents concerning the town’s fight against the light-rail line.
The court ruled Chevy Chase violated the First Amendment rights of Action Committee for Transit and member Ben Ross of Bethesda. The town charged the fees, the court ruled, because it expected ACT and Ross to criticize the community’s opposition to the Purple Line.
“Any time an agency says to you, ‘We’re not giving you this information because we don’t like you or we don’t like the things you say,’ this case says you lose,” said Elliot Feldman of the Baker Hostetler law firm, who represented ACT and Ross pro bono.
Ross hailed the decision.
“I think it’s a real victory for everyone’s right to public information,” Ross said.
Efforts to reach representatives of the town were unsuccessful.
After over two and a half years of litigation, I suspect those documents are going to show some very interesting things.