Nevada Supreme Court hears oral argument on lower court ruling allowing CCSD to skirt transparency law

For Immediate Release

Contact Chantal Lovell

February 11, 2014

702-222-0642, 951-295-4855 (cell)

LAS VEGASThe Nevada Supreme Court today heard oral arguments in the Nevada Policy Research Institute lawsuit seeking to compel the Clark County School District to release its Directory of taxpayer-funded and government-issued teacher email addresses.

Joseph Becker, director and chief legal officer of NPRI’s Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation, argued that the Eighth Judicial District Court erred when it dismissed the case under a judge’s theory that records of teacher email addresses — often posted on multiple district school websites — are exempt from public-record disclosure requirements under the Nevada Public Records Act.

NPRI sued CCSD in March 2013 after the school district refused to provide the email addresses existing in district records. Later that year, District Judge Doug Smith ruled the email-address records were not subject to disclosure under the Nevada Public Records Act.

Following today’s arguments, Becker issued this statement:

The Nevada Public Records Act considers all records to be public documents available for inspection unless otherwise explicitly made confidential by statute or by a balancing of public interests against privacy or law enforcement justifications for nondisclosure.

The NPRA exists to ensure that members of the public have broad access to government records so they can acquire information from government and keep it accountable. Should the District Court’s ruling not be reversed by Nevada’s high court, government bureaucrats will be permitted to withhold legitimate public records from the people of Nevada.

Fortunately for proponents of government transparency, the Nevada Supreme Court has a history of overturning lower court decisions that wrongly limit transparency in government. In previous open records cases, the Court has ruled that all records are public unless they are explicitly made confidential by statute, and directories of government-issued email address have never been made confidential by the Legislature. Furthermore, the Nevada Legislature and the Nevada Supreme Court have repeatedly held that disclosure under the public-records act is to be “construed liberally” and any limits placed on disclosure are to be “construed narrowly.”

NPRI’s case has been supported by a number of groups and individuals that don’t often see eye-to-eye. The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Institute. The Nevada Press Association, Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Steve Sebelius, and the Review-Journal editorial board have all expressed support for NPRI’s reading of the Act. 

The Court did not issue a decision Wednesday.

More information:

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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The Nevada Policy Research Institute 7130 Placid St., Las Vegas, NV 89119
Phone: 702-222-0642 Fax: 702-227-0927 Web site: http://npri.org/litigation

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