Vermont Supreme Court hears arguments in UVM public records dispute


Sawyer Loftus

Jacob Oblak (left) shakes hands with UVM’s General Counsel Sharon Reich Paulson (right) just before their case is heard in front of the Vermont Supreme Court.

Sawyer Loftus, News Editor

The Vermont Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday, May 15, in a case that could push UVM to release a document pertaining to a student’s arrest.  

Jacob Oblak, a recent graduate from Vermont Law school, sued UVM last year after filing a public records request for a UVM police services affidavit, a document stating the reasons for arrest.

Oblak requested a document from the Wesley Richter case, for a school paper he was writing at the time, Oblak said.

Richter was arrested by UVM police services after allegedly making a racial threat in the Howe Library. However, a Burlington judge refused to continue the case against Richter in late October 2017, citing a lack of probable cause.

Oblak wanted to review the police affidavit to see what exactly Richter said that gave UVM police cause to arrest him, he said.

UVM was represented by General Counsel Sharon Reich Paulsen, who argued that because the Richter case was thrown out and the court records were sealed by a judge, that same seal on the record applies to UVM.

Oblak argued that because the of probable cause was created by UVM police it is still a public document defined by Vermont law and that democracy relies on a transparent relationship between citizens and the police.

Oblak’s initial case was dismissed in August 2018, by Judge Robert A. Mello, who stated that an affidavit of probable cause in a case that was thrown out is “confidential as a matter of law,” according to court records.

Paulsen and UVM’s legal team declined to comment.

You can listen to the full oral arguments by following the link here: