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Judges’ ruling in email records case defers to public access counselor

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A request for the email records of public officials that simply asks for emails to or from officials over a certain period of time doesn’t satisfy the Access to Public Records Act, a panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

The issue of first impression presented in Seth Anderson v. Huntington County Board of Commissioners, 35A04-1207-MI-357, is what makes a request for records “reasonably particular” as required by I.C. 5-14-3.

Anderson received the emails he sought to and from four Huntington County officials, but only after suing when his initial request for documents was denied as not reasonably particular. Before the Court of Appeals, Anderson’s attorney argued there were larger issues involved.

But the COA ruling makes clear that even though Huntington County officials provided Anderson the documents he requested, they didn’t have to. Before filing suit, Anderson had received an opinion from Public Access Counselor Joe Hoage stating that his request had not been made with reasonable particularity. Hoage suggested possible modifications Anderson could make to his request to meet the statutory requirement, such as asking for emails from a particular person to another during a specified period.

“Although the Commissioners ultimately spent the time and expense compiling and reviewing 9500 emails, they did not necessarily have a legal obligation to do so,” Judge John Baker wrote for the unanimous panel. “The Public Access Counselor’s opinions state the opposite. To be sure, the fact that the Commissioners provided the information exactly as Anderson requested it does not define the APRA. Indeed, we agree with the Public Access Counselor’s opinion that Anderson’s requests were not reasonably particular under the APRA.”

The court also declined to award costs and attorney fees to Anderson.


 

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  1. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  2. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  3. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  4. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

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