LAS VEGAS — Today, Nevada’s Eighth Judicial District Court heard arguments in the Nevada Policy Research Institute’s public records lawsuit against the Clark County School District. At issue in this morning’s hearing was CCSD’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
After the hearing, Joseph Becker, the director of NPRI’s Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation, who is representing NPRI in the lawsuit, released the following comments.
The Nevada Public Records Act (NPRA) considers all government records to be public documents available for disclosure unless otherwise explicitly made confidential by statute or by a balancing of public interests against privacy or law enforcement justifications for nondisclosure.
The Legislature has declared that the purpose of the NPRA is to further the democratic ideal of an accountable government by ensuring that public records are broadly accessible. In 2007, in order to better accomplish these purposes, the Legislature amended the NPRA to provide that its provisions must be liberally construed to maximize the public's right of access. In addition, the Legislature amended the NPRA to provide that if a state entity withholds records, it bears the burden of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the records are confidential.
Therefore, citizens must be given access to government records and must be able to communicate easily and conveniently with those government officials.
Both in its motion to dismiss and at today’s hearing, CCSD relied heavily on NRS 239B.040 — a statute the intent of which is to make email addresses provided to governments by citizens for the purpose of communicating with that government confidential. Clearly, this statute does not apply when a government entity creates the email addresses.
CCSD also argued that fulfilling NPRI’s public records request would create a spam issue for teachers. Becker continued:
First, it’s essential to note that efficiency is not the guiding principle in public records law. Rather, it’s about open government and abiding by the principle that government officials serve the public, not the other way around. So unless the government is considering the consequences of legitimate law enforcement or privacy concerns or statutory exemptions which explicitly make records confidential, the law doesn’t allow hypothetical consequences of releasing the records — as imagined by government bureaucrats — to be a factor in public records decisions.
Second, we don’t need to guess what happens when thousands of teachers’ email addresses are publicly available — we already know. As detailed in our opposition brief, there is a website that currently contains over 8,000 email addresses for CCSD teachers. If having thousands of teacher emails publicly available would lead to teachers not being able to do their jobs because of a spam deluge, as was suggested today, it would already be happening. But it’s not. Instead, CCSD is hiding behind an empirically disproven hypothetical to avoid following the law.
The law is on the side of NPRI and transparent government.
Becker urged Judge Douglas Smith to follow the law to include recent Supreme Court precedent and reject CCSD’s motion to dismiss.
The Eighth Judicial District court is now considering CCSD’s motion to dismiss and District Court Judge Douglas Smith said he would make a decision within a week or so.
Requested in the lawsuit are 1) the public records, 2) that the court enjoin CCSD from delaying and denying future legitimate public records requests, and 3) costs and attorney fees.
- An official copy of Defendant Clark County School District’s Reply in Support of Defendant CCSD’s Motion to Dismiss
- An official copy of the CJCL’s Opposition to Defendant Clark County School District’s Motion to Dismiss including attachments
- An official copy of Defendant Clark County School District’s Motion to Dismiss
- An official copy of CJCL’s original complaint
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/.