NPRI files notice of appeal in CCSD open-records case

  • Thursday, September 12, 2013

LAS VEGAS The Nevada Policy Research Institute today took its fight to get Clark County School District public records to the Nevada Supreme Court, in filing a notice of appeal with the Eighth Judicial District Court.

NPRI sued CCSD after the district refused to release the email addresses it issues to teachers. Last month, in a widely criticized decision, District Court Judge Douglas Smith granted CCSD’s motion to dismiss.

In announcing the filing, Joseph Becker, the director of NPRI’s Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation, released the following comments:

Nevada’s Supreme Court has a history of overturning judicial district decisions that errantly attempt to limit Nevada’s Public Records Act. NPRI’s open-records case needs to be the next example of the Supreme Court defending the public-records law by reversing a misguided lower-court decision.

We are appealing to the Supreme Court to uphold both the clear language of the law and a recent Supreme Court ruling finding that the Nevada Public Records Act’s provisions should be “construed liberally.” Additionally, the redefining by the district judge of NPRI’s request for records as a “request for a communication device or method” is a dangerous precedent that must be overturned. If not, government officials will be able to deny legitimate requests for public records based on their interpretations of how those records will be used.

Becker noted that a diverse group of individuals and organizations across the political spectrum, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada and the Nevada Press Association, strongly disagreed with the judge’s ruling.

Allen Lichtenstein, ACLU Nevada attorney, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that “[t]he Nevada Supreme Court has been quite clear that government records are public, with very limited exceptions.” Of the directory of email addresses NPRI is seeking, Lichtenstein added: “It’s a public record.”

Barry Smith, who helped craft Nevada’s Public Records Act, stated, “I’m not following the judge’s logic. This is clearly a matter of public record.”

Two voices within the Review-Journal that often disagree with each other, the paper’s editorial board and columnist Steve Sebelius, both criticized the judge’s decision. The editorial board wrote that the “poorly reasoned decision begs to be overturned,” while Sebelius produced a column entitled “Plenty of grounds to appeal teacher email decision.”

Concluded Becker:

The Nevada Public Records Act exists to further the democratic necessity of an accountable government — ensuring that public records are broadly accessible by the public. The Nevada Supreme Court needs to defend this principle by overturning the judge’s decision to grant CCSD’s motion to dismiss.

Case documents:

The Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation is a public-interest law organization that litigates when necessary to protect the fundamental rights of individuals as set forth in the state and federal constitutions.

Learn more about the Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation and this case at http://npri.org/litigation/.

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