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Michigan Court Rules E-Mails Not Public

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E-mail messages from teachers’-union leaders don’t become public records just because they’re contained in a school district’s computer system, the Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled.

The court last week overturned a trial judge’s decision in a 2007 case involving the Howell, Mich., schools. A Livingston County circuit judge had ruled the e-mails fell under the Freedom of Information Act.

The case began when the Howell schools received a series of requests for the release of e-mail messages from three officials of the Howell Education Association. The district and the union agreed on a “friendly” suit to establish whether the e-mail traffic was subject to disclosure because it was recorded in the district’s computer system.

In the decision, the three appeals judges said the case presented a “difficult question requiring that we apply a statute, whose purpose is to render government transparent, to a technology that did not exist in reality (or even in many people’s imaginations) at the time.”

Vol. 29, Issue 20, Page 4

Published in Print: February 3, 2010, as Michigan Court Rules E-Mails Not Public
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