Southworth Settles Open Records Lawsuit With One Wisconsin Now; Agrees to Pay Full Legal Fees, Statutory Damages

Juneau County DA Withheld Records on 'Healthy Youth Act' Communications with Right-Wing Groups

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MADISON, Wis. — One Wisconsin Now has prevailed in its lawsuit filed against Republican Juneau County District Attorney Scott Southworth for his withholding of open records after Southworth agreed to settle the case Wednesday. Southworth had failed to produce 170 pages of email records regarding a controversial March 2010 letter he sent to five Juneau County school districts saying the state’s Healthy Youth Act “promotes the sexual abuse of children.” Southworth agreed to pay all of One Wisconsin Now’s legal costs and expenses, as well as statutory damages in order to settle the case filed in Juneau County.

“One Wisconsin Now has fully prevailed against District Attorney Southworth’s withholding these critical public records,” said Scot Ross, One Wisconsin Now Executive Director. “District Attorney Southworth needs to explain to the public fully why it took legal action before he was willing or able to turn over these public records.”

One Wisconsin Now filed an open records request with Southworth for records related to the Health Youth Act (2009 WI Act 143) within days of his inflammatory March 24 letter for correspondence from January 1, 2009 to April 1, 2010. Southworth responded April 16, 2010 with 18 pages of emails he received. Further information led One Wisconsin Now to believe additional records had been withheld by Southworth and the organization filed a lawsuit related to this request September 7.

After One Wisconsin Now filed suit, Southworth turned over approximately 170 pages of additional documents. Southworth was deposed November 24 by One Wisconsin Now’s attorney.

Most notable in the documents belatedly turned over by Southworth show he had in fact provided Julaine Appling of the right wing Wisconsin Family Action a copy of his legal opinion on the Healthy Youth Act on March 24, prior to those documents being obtained by the school districts in his county.

“One Wisconsin Now believes District Attorney Southworth wasted scarce taxpayer resources to serve an extremist political agenda and his allies in this anti-education effort,” said Ross. “Whether District Attorney Southworth withheld these records to intentionally hide his coordination with political allies to oppose the Healthy Youth Act, or that it is simply he is incapable of performing his responsibilities as the custodian of public records is up to the public to determine.”

Southworth agreed to pay One Wisconsin Now $8,950 in legal fees, expenses and statutory damages. One Wisconsin Now was represented successfully by Robert Dreps of Godfrey and Kahn, SC.

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One Wisconsin Now specializes in effective earned media and online organizing to advance progressive leadership and values.