OK Supreme Court Decisions: June 14, 2001

Article excerpt

Oklahoma Supreme Court

For week ended June 12.

World Publishing Co. vs. The Honorable April Sellers White, Judge of the District Court of Creek County, 24th Judicial District, and Robert Wayne Rotramel, No. 95,518.

On Aug. 23, 2000, Robert Wayne Rotramel was charged with multiple crimes including first-degree murder, lewd molestation, rape, and forcible sodomy. In an attempt to gain access to Rotramel's juvenile records, World Publishing filed a motion to intervene in the criminal case. Judge April Sellers White indicated that the records would be released if a compelling reason for disclosure was revealed after inspection and redaction. When World publishing failed to receive any of Rotramel's pre-majority criminal records, it filed an application for this court to assume original jurisdiction and a petition for writ of mandamus.

The court ruled that it was clear that the Legislature had determined that individuals who stand accused of particularly serious offenses should be charged as adults and have their records open to the public. The court ruled that even were there no express statutory provision mandating the release of Rotramel's records, under the facts presented, failure to release the documents constitutes an unauthorized use of judicial force. In support of its holding, the court stated that Under the facts presented, the balance of privacy versus the protection of the public weighs heavily in favor of disclosure.

World Publishing Co. vs. The Honorable Russell C. Miller, Judge of the District Court of Creek County, 24th Judicial District, and Robert Wayne Rotramel, No. 95,519.

In a companion case, Judge Russell C. Miller sustained a motion brought by Robert Wayne Rotramel to dismiss World Publishing's application to open records on the basis that World Publishing had no standing to intervene in the criminal case. The court ruled that providing for the release of otherwise confidential information without judicial intervention in limited circumstances, we hold that the provisions of 10 O.S. Supp. 1999, Section 7307-1.2(F) through (H) mandate judicial approval prior to the release of records exempted from the general confidentiality requirements by subsection 7307-1.2(C) of the statute.

Health Care Associates Inc. vs. Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, No. 92,864.

Health Care Associates places nurses on a part-time or temporary basis at hospitals and nursing homes. HCA provides no benefits, insurance, health care, vacation pay, retirement, uniforms, equipment, or malpractice insurance. HCA considered the nurses to be independent contractors, rather than employees, and paid no unemployment taxes. The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission assessed unemployment taxes against HCA. On appeal, the district court reversed, holding that the nurses were independent contractors under the Employment Security Act of 1980. The Court of Civil Appeals reversed. HCA appealed.

In vacating the opinion of the Court of Civil Appeals, the court relied on Christesson Reporting Service vs. Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. In Christesson, the Court of Civil Appeals held that Christesson was a broker of the services of independent contractors, where the court reporters determined their own hours, provided their own transportation, equipment, supplies, and took directions from the attorneys for whom the reporting was performed. The Court of Civil Appeals also stated that the court reporting service was not an employer because the critical element of control and direction was missing. Following the ruling from this case, the court ruled that HCA's relationship with the nurses similarly lacked direction and control, and thus HCA was a broker of the services of individual contractors.

Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals

Cheryl Leanne Hollingsworth, vs. Richard Paul Underhill, No. 94,232.

Cheryl Leanne Hollingsworth and Richard Paul Underhill were married for 20 years. …