In July 2018, Carver County sheriff’s deputies shot and killed Archer Amorosi, a 16-year-old in the throes of a mental health crisis. Devastated by their son’s death, Amorosi’s family faced another crisis: the release of police records regarding Archer Amorosi.
The family eventually hired Paul Dworak and his partner Jeffrey Storms, and were glad they did. Dworak and Storms advocated for the Data Practices Office to issue an advisory opinion that Archer’s records were private, even after his death. They reminded government agencies not to release Amorosi’s records; some agencies listened, but Carver County did not.
“In these police shooting cases, we see a rush from law enforcement to release a one-sided version of events and paint the victim in the worst possible light,” Dworak said. “There is often nothing you can do about it. This case was different because of protections afforded children’s records under Minnesota law.”
Dworak warned the Carver County attorney repeatedly that the release of Amorosi’s records was illegal. “He released them anyway,” said Dworak. “He wouldn’t even show the information to the family before he released it. They learned about this sensitive information from the news.”
Dworak and Storms filed suit in September 2019. The county settled in 2020, agreeing to pay $450,000 — perhaps both the largest payout in a Minnesota Government Data Practices Act case and the only successful civil suit against a sitting county attorney in Minnesota.
“No one has ever pursued this type of litigation before, and Paul deserves an incredible amount of credit for its success,” said Storms.
But while Dworak is glad of the outcome, he knows the family’s ordeal is not over.
“While we’re proud of our efforts, we must not forget that Archer should not have been killed by law enforcement,” Storms said.
Read more about Minnesota Lawyer’s superb class of Attorneys of the Year for 2020 here.
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