Monday, July 22, 2013

Appeals court saves small weekly paper from possible doom in fight for open records

The Sacramento Valley Mirror lives on, and justice is served. Tim Crews, owner, publisher and editor of the paper in Willows, Calif., population 6,200, had filed a California Public Records Act request for the local school district to turn over a year's worth of emails from the school superintendent, but about 3,000 emails were withheld. Crews filed suit against the district. A county judge, calling the lawsuit frivolous, ordered Crews to pay $56,595 in attorneys' fees and costs, The Press Democrat in Santa Rosa reports. Crews only makes $20,000 a year. (Sacramento Bee photo by Randy Pench: Tim Crews)

If the decision had been withheld, if would have set a dangerous precedent, the Democrat opines. "Allowing public agency to threaten requesters with liability for attorneys' fees would have had a chilling effect on the public's right to access government information under the Public Records Act," the paper writes. "Fortunately, that threat was put to rest  by state appellate court which struck down the lower court order, noting that Crews' petition for school records — emails in this case — 'was not utterly devoid of merit or taken for an improper motive. Consequently, his action was not frivolous, and he should not have been ordered to pay attorney fees and costs.' Another important win for openness. (Read more)

No comments: