NPRI’s litigation center responds to CCSD motion in public-records case

LAS VEGAS — Today, the Nevada Policy Research Institute’s Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation filed an opposition to the Clark County School District’s motion to dismiss the Center’s public-records case against CCSD.

NPRI, seeking a list of government-issued email addresses for CCSD teachers, filed its lawsuit on March 28, 2013. Relying on out-of-context excerpts of Nevada law, CCSD asked the court on May 24, 2013 to dismiss.

In the just-filed response, Joseph Becker, CJCL’s director representing NPRI in the lawsuit, identifies the tortured logic behind the district’s legal arguments against government transparency.

“CCSD has resorted to citing out-of-context excerpts of the law in order to try and justify not following Nevada’s Public Records Act. The law is perfectly clear — these government-issued email addresses for government employees are public information, and CCSD is obligated to release the records, instead of spending taxpayer dollars fighting to withhold from taxpayers this public information.”

Becker noted that the chief legal argument relied upon in CCSD’s Motion to Dismiss cites NRS 239B.040, a Nevada Statute of which even a cursory reading reveals is inapplicable to the legal issue at hand. 

“Although passages craftily — or deceptively — excerpted by CCSD suggest some relevance to this case, read in context, it is abundantly clear that NRS 239B was enacted to protect those who interact and provide private information to government from having certain information they disclosed, in turn, made public by government,” said Becker. “It certainly does not apply to records and information generated by the government itself.

“CCSD’s motion to dismiss also relies on NRS 603.070, a trade-regulation statute enacted to protect computer software programming code from being misappropriated. This, of course, is not relevant to NPRI’s public-records request of a non-proprietary e-mail directory generated by CCSD itself.

“Accepting CCSD’s tortured interpretation of NRS 603 to exclude the public records created with proprietary software programs would gut Nevada’s Public Records Law completely. For example, all government documents or correspondence created with Microsoft Word™ or Microsoft Excel™ would, under CCSD’s interpretation of the statute become non-disclosable because the documents were created, stored, and/or manipulated using proprietary software from Microsoft, Inc.”

NPRI’s Opposition to CCSD’s Motion to Dismiss also includes an affidavit from NPRI reporter Karen Gray giving four specific examples of how CCSD regularly delays and stonewalls her requests for records. In one case, it took over nine months and a meeting with then-superintendent Dwight Jones to receive the records she requested. CCSD has yet to fulfill two of her listed requests. The open-records statute generally allows five business days for the production of records.

Becker also stated, “Nevada court rulings have established that even email content from government officials’ mailboxes are subject to Nevada’s Public Records Act, so it’s a waste of tax dollars for CCSD bureaucrats to contend in court that government-provided email addresses for government employees are confidential.”

Becker then noted that the Nevada Supreme Court recently authoritatively re-affirmed that, under the NPRA, access to public records “must be construed liberally” and that restrictions on access “must be construed narrowly.”

A hearing on CCSD’s motion to dismiss is scheduled in Clark County District Court on July 2, 2013, at 8 a.m.

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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.

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