SAN JOSE — The California Sixth District Court of Appeal originally ruled against attorney Ted Smith, but now they are taking it back.
When the attorney’s attempts to subpoena emails and text messages of San Jose City Council officials were denied in 2009, Smith took the matter to court and won. But the court of appeal issued writ of mandate, which kept Smith from the records until a California Supreme Court decision overruled the matter in March.
In an opinion delivered on May 17 by Presiding Justice Conrad L. Rushing and associate justices Eugene M. Premo and Franklin D. Elia, the court affirmed the high court's decision to disclose business conducted on elected officials' private email and text messages.
“Our supreme court reversed, holding that a broad construction of the act is required in light of the purpose underlying its enactment and ‘our constitutional mandate to interpret the act broadly in favor of public access,’” the appeals court ruling said.
On March 2, the California Supreme Court ruled that public officials' private emails and text messages are not exempt from the California Public Records Act (CPRA) if the records' content is related to official government business.
“A city employee’s communications related to the conduct of public business do not cease to be public records just because they were sent or received using a personal account,” California Supreme Court Justice Carol A. Corrigan said in the high court's opinion.
The court of appeals had previously disagreed and held that the CPRA did not require public entrance to public officials’ communication using their private cell phones or email addresses. However, the court was forced to rethink the matter.