Ruling: Not All Government E-mails Public Record

Not all government e-mails, electronic documents and notes stored on a computer should be considered a public record, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled yesterday.

According to an article published by the Arizona Daily Star:

[Arizona Chief Justice Ruth McGregor wrote in her opinion,] "Every note made on government-owned paper, located in a government office, written with a government-owned pen, or composed on a government-owned computer would presumably be a public record."

She said that logic would make a public record of a grocery list written by a government employee and a report card stored in the desk of a government worker.

"The public-records law was never intended to encompass such documents," McGregor said. "The purpose of the law is to open government activity to public scrutiny, not to disclose information about private citizens."

McGregor said a judge can withhold public records if the exposure would violate rights to privacy, confidentiality or "the best interests of the state."

The ruling was based on the trial of Arizona Pinal County Manager Stanley Griffis, who recently pleaded guilty to six felonies including theft, fraud and tax fraud. He is awaiting sentencing. Griffis was indicted for using money from the Sheriff's Department to purchase weapons for personal use. A court ordered Griffis to turn over all e-mails covering a two-month period.