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Civil Procedure-Public Records Requests-Search Database

Posted by Ted A. Schmidt | Dec 21, 2017 | 0 Comments

Lunney v. State of Arizona, 779 Ariz. Adv. Rep. 6 (App. Div. I, December 7 , 2017( (J. McMurdie)


AGENCY REQUIRED TO "QUERY & SEARCH" VARIOUS DATABASES IN RESPONSE TO PROPER REQUEST/PRIVATE PHONE USE IN THE PUBLIC SERVICE RENDERS PRIVATE PHONE DATA ATTAINABLE


Following their son's death in an auto accident the plaintiffs made numerous and voluminous public record requests under Arizona's Public Records Law to the Arizona Department of Public Safety ("DPS") and the Arizona Department of Transportation ("ADOT"). Initially the responses to the records requests were sent directly to the plaintiffs,  but in July 2014, Assistant Attorney General Fred Zeder asked the agencies to forward all requests and responses to the attorney general's office.  The attorney general's office would then forward the responses to the plaintiffs in "Supplemental Disclosures." Unhappy with this procedure, delays and  refusals to respond to a number of records requests, the plaintiffs brought this statutory special action under Arizona Revised Statutes ("A.R.S.") section 39-121 against the State, ADOT, DPS, and Zeder in his official capacity (Zeder dismissed early). The trial court found no Public Records law violations. The Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed in part and vacated and remanded in part

(1) when responding to public records requests, state agencies
are required to "query and search" multiple electronic databases and
produce any responsive documents that result from those
searches; (2) a public employee's private cell phone records
pertaining to the conduct of public business may become public
records subject to disclosure if a public records requestor establishes
the employee used the cell phone for a public purpose; (3) without
justification for the delay, a 135-day response time to a request is
not prompt and sanctions under A.R.S. §39-121.02. should be
considered; (4) governmental agencies are entitled to legal assistance
from the attorney general's office, so routing responses through that
office was not a violation.

About the Author

Ted A. Schmidt

Ted's early career as a trial attorney began on the other side of the fence, in the offices of a major insurance defense firm. It was there that Ted acquired the experience, the skills and the special insight into defense strategy that have served him so well in the field of personal injury law. Notable among his successful verdicts was the landmark Sparks vs. Republic National Life Insurance Company case, a $4.5 million award to Ted's client. To this day, it is the defining case for insurance bad faith, and yet it is only one of several other multi-million dollar jury judgments won by Ted during his career. He is certified by the State Bar of Arizona as a specialist in "wrongful death and bodily injury litigation".

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