Attorneys’ Fees

Attorneys’ Fees – Recoverability Under Tennessee Public Records Act

Except as indicated, all indented material is copied directly from the court’s opinion.

Decisions of the Tennessee Supreme Court

Opinions of the Tennessee Court of Appeals


Conley v. Knox County Sheriff, No. E2020-01713-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Feb. 1, 2022).

Under this statute, if a court finds that a governmental entity willfully refused to disclose a record that the entity knew was public, the court may, in its discretion, award the reasonable costs involved in obtaining that record, including attorney’s fees. Tenn. Code Ann. § 10-7-505(g). We review the trial court’s decision to award such fees under an abuse of discretion standard. Madden Phillips Constr., Inc. v. GGAT Dev. Corp., 315 S.W.3d 800, 827 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2009). (Emphasis supplied.)

We do not disagree with the trial court that Ms. Conley should be compensated for having to enforce her right to access the records requested in LURR A1 and LURR B11. However, the statute does not provide for attorney’s fees incurred by Ms. Conley in litigating the other ten public records requests that were not willfully denied. To hold otherwise would both broaden the statute beyond the legislature’s intended scope and would be contrary to this Court’s opinion in Friedmann. As such, we conclude that the trial court abused its discretion by awarding Ms. Conley attorney’s fees incurred throughout litigation when it found that only two of her records requests were willfully denied.




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