South Carolina Paper Wins Court Decision Over Release of Doctor’s Disciplinary Records

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(AP) The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled Monday that an administrative judge erred by closing hearings involving a Hilton Head Island doctor without giving a reason.

The Hilton Head Island Packet newspaper filed a lawsuit after it was unable to get disciplinary records of Doctor James Johnston. The doctor has been barred from practicing medicine until he completes an alcohol abuse treatment program.

Several media organizations, including The Associated Press, filed briefs in support of the newspaper.

Newspaper attorney Jay Bender says the ruling was a victory for the public as well as The Island Packet. The ruling could open the door for the release of disciplinary records for Johnston.

Attorneys for Johnston and the administrative judge did not immediately return phone messages left by The AP.

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