Montana’s Supreme Court ruled today on author Jon Krakauer’s request for University of Montana student records related to an alleged 2012 sexual assault. Krakauer asked for a specific student-athlete’s records while writing the 2015 book, Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town.
The commissioner of higher education cited privacy law when refusing to release the records related to the rape allegations of a female student.
Today, the state Supreme Court ruled that the commissioner of higher education would have broken privacy laws if he completed the entire request.
But the court also said that federal and state laws allow the release of student records after the documents undergo a constitutional balance test.
University of Montana Law Professor Anthony Johnstone says today’s ruling means a Helena District Court judge must complete a confidential review of each document in the request, and determine if it falls under the public's right to know, or if the information would compromise privacy law.
"The judge will have some help from lawyers on both sides who will provide their perspective on certain guidelines for what that judge should be looking for in terms of both privacy and the public right to know."
If either Krakauer’s lawyer or the commissioner of higher education does not agree with the judge’s determinations, they could be challenged back up to the Supreme Court.
Krakauer says he would include the released records in future printings of his book if they are released.