LAS VEGAS — Nevada’s Eighth Judicial District Court Judge Douglas Smith has granted the Clark County School District’s motion to dismiss the Nevada Policy Research Institute’s public-records lawsuit seeking government-issued email addresses.
In response, Joseph Becker, the director of NPRI’s Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation, announced the Center will appeal. He released the following comments:
This ruling sets a dangerous precedent for those seeking information under the Nevada Public Records Act, and that’s why we will appeal this ruling to the Nevada Supreme Court.
Despite 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,” this district court has misapplied the law and denied our request for a public record.
Bizarrely, the court redefined NPRI’s request for CCSD’s government-issued email directory for government employees as not a request for records, but as a “request for a communication device or method.” While a list of email addresses may lead to communications, that’s distinctly different from requesting a communications device.
If allowed to stand, this harmful precedent will allow government agencies or judges to deny public-record requests based on their interpretation of the function the information will have once received. The law provides no such leeway — and for good reason. Public information should be available to the public upon request, not available only if government bureaucrats want that information released.
The district court also misapplied NRS 239B in ruling that the records NPRI requested are confidential. That statute does make email addresses that individuals provide to government agencies confidential, with some exceptions.
That’s the opposite of what’s happening here, however, because CCSD is creating the email addresses and providing them to its employees. NPRI seeks the list CCSD created, not anything citizens submitted to CCSD.
The Court is bound to enforce the plain, unambiguous language of NRS 239B.040, but the Court’s misreading of the law here is mystifying.
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. Unfortunately, district courts have a history of limiting the public’s access to public records, only to be later overturned by the Nevada Supreme Court.
That needs to happen in this case as well.
- An official copy of the Order Granting Defendant Clark County School District’s motion to Dismiss
- An official copy of Defendant Clark County School District’s Reply in Support of Defendant CCSD’s Motion to Dismiss
- An official copy of 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/.