Three district attorneys, who have already spent more than $80,000 in public funds fighting a public records suit for data on the cases they prosecute, vowed this month to appeal an order to turn over the records to the Globe, which is likely to further boost their legal bills.
Attorney General Maura Healey sued the three prosecutors — Plymouth District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz, Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr., and Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael D. O’Keefe — after all three of their offices denied the Globe’s request for data on the criminal cases they have filed, including the charges and outcome of those cases.
The DAs also refused to comply with a subsequent order by Secretary of State William F. Galvin’s office to turn over the records, citing various exemptions, which prompted Galvin’s office to ask Healey for help. It is the first time in memory a Massachusetts attorney general has gone to court to enforce the public records law. Under a quirk in state law, Galvin’s office is charged with handling public records appeals, but only the attorney general can file a lawsuit to enforce his orders.
In November, Suffolk Superior Court Justice Rosemary Connolly sided with Healey’s office and ordered the prosecutors to turn over the data. The judge said the case is similar to one decided close to 16 years ago, when the Supreme Judicial Court ordered several district attorneys to give the Globe a list of public corruption cases involving local officials they had prosecuted.
“The AG’s office maintains that these records are subject to disclosure under the law, as the Superior Court confirmed,” said Jillian Fennimore, a spokeswoman for Healey’s office.
The attorney general would normally represent the DAs for free in a public records case. But since Healey’s office filed the lawsuit, the DAs hired Thomas R. Kiley of the law firm Cosgrove, Eisenberg & Kiley to represent them. A spokeswoman for the Worcester district attorney’s office estimated its share of the legal bills at $26,860 so far, which suggests the total amount for all three offices would probably exceed $80,000.
The Plymouth and Worcester district attorneys offices said they would let the appellate filing “speak for itself.” The Cape district attorney’s office declined to comment.