TIPSHEET: Vanderbilt law professor fights to keep police from releasing arrest records

In a court of law, a person is innocent until proven guilty. But when a person’s photograph and arrest information are posted on television newscasts, newspapers, radio reports and websites, he or she is essentially being painted as a criminal before being tried by a judge or jury. That’s the opinion of University Professor of Constitutional Law & Health Law & Policy James Blumstein. Blumstein is going to U.S. District Court on July 11 to convince a judge to enforce a 33-year-old court order that bans Nashville Metro Police from giving out raw arrest information.

In 1973, Blumstein was the attorney in a case known as Doe v. Briley. That case led to an agreement by Metro police and the state of Tennessee to enter into and follow a federal court order that bars Metro police from disclosing the names and information of arrest suspects unless they are convicted.

In the original case, the plaintiff argued that releasing arrest records dramatically reduced his chance of getting a government job, even though he was never convicted. And, in an order entered by the court, Metro agreed to discontinue considering raw arrest records in making employment decisions.

The case took on even more significance in 1974 when Metro police and the Metropolitan Government of Nashville, Davidson County and the state of Tennessee agreed to limit access to Metro’s arrest records to “only law enforcement agencies and only for official law enforcement purposes.”

The case was revived in 2006 after Metro police posted pictures of alleged customers of prostitutes on a website and the Tennessean published an article about the site.

A judge in February 2007 ruled that the consent decree was still valid and enforceable. His ruling is now being challenged. A hearing will be held before U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger July 11.

Blumstein is the lawyer in this case for the plaintiffs and he is an expert on constitutional law and ranks among the nation’s most prominent scholars of voting rights. If you would like to interview him, contact Amy Wolf at (615) 322-NEWS or

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