A Metro Nashville police Web page featuring the photographs and names of people accused of patronizing prostitutes violates a 1974 court agreement and should be taken down, a motion filed in federal court Monday says. Nashville and state law enforcement agencies are violating that order every time they give out the names of people arrested but not convicted, James F. Blumstein, a professor of constitutional law and health law and policy at Vanderbilt University, said in the document. “It’s providing a form of punishment without the government proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the person is guilty of a crime, and there’s great potential for abuse,” he said.
The federal court order, issued after an agreement between the plaintiff, Metro and the state of Tennessee, bars Metro police and the state from making public the names of people arrested by Metro unless they have been found guilty. People have a right not to have their names and arrest information made public without a conviction, Blumstein said. Some open records advocates disagreed. “Records of arrests are public records, generally,” said Paul McMasters, of the First Amendment Center in Arlington, Va. “And it is difficult to believe that a court order would cover all arrests for any crimes or arrests subsequent to the court order, but I have not seen this particular court order.” No court date was set for a hearing on the motion.