Appeals Court Rules Personal Email Accounts Still Subject To Public Records Requests

Added By FourthEstate - Nov 18, 2016 - Court and Legal


Appellants argue that the superior court erred in ordering Vermillion “to produce e[-]mails from his personal e[-]mail account and swear under [penalty of] perjury that he had complied.” Specifically, Vermillion argues that the PRA does not “authorize an agency to require an elected official to search a personal e[-]mail account.” We reject Vermillion’s argument. Nissen squarely addressed this argument and held that an agency’s employees or agents must search their own “files, devices, and accounts,” and produce any public records, including “e-mails,” to the employer agency that are responsive to the PRA request. The Nissen court also held that affidavits by the agency employees, submitted in good faith, sufficient to satisfy the agency’s burden to show it conducted an adequate search for records. Thus, we hold that it was proper for the superior court to require Vermillion to produce to the City e-mails in his personal e-mail account that meet the definition of a public record under RCW 42.56.010(3) and to submit an affidavit in good faith attesting to the adequacy of his search for the requested records.


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