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Erie County Sheriff's Office faces suit over request for jail records

The Buffalo chapter of the National Lawyers Guild filed suit Tuesday against the Erie County Sheriff's Office to obtain documents sought under the Freedom of Information Law.

The group, represented in part by students from the University at Buffalo Law School, says it filed a request nearly a year ago seeking documents that might indicate whether Sheriff Timothy B. Howard's jail staff mislabeled or failed to report serious incidents to the State Commission of Correction. The request has largely been ignored, the lawsuit says.

The Buffalo News reported in 2017 that Howard's jail management staff had sometimes labeled inmate suicide attempts as "individual inmate disturbances" and misreported other serious incidents. Jail officials soon vowed to comply with the state's rules after the Commission of Correction threatened a lawsuit.

A group of citizens sought a court order to force Howard to abide by the reporting requirements. The group includes Nan L. Haynes, a retired UB School of Law professor and a member of the National Lawyers Guild's Buffalo chapter.

Howard and the Sheriff's Office do not comment on pending litigation. Erie County attorney Michael Siragusa also refused to comment on the suit, which was filed in State Supreme Court.

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