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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. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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