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Friday, October 8, 2010

! Supreme Court Rules Metadata a "Public Record" !

The Washington Supreme Court handed down their much-anticipated ruling in O'Neill v. City of Shoreline. Their main holdings are:
  • Metadata in an email or other electronic document is a "public record" subject to disclosure.
  • A print-out of the email is not sufficient if metadata is requested.
  • An agency may not delete emails that have been requested; the electronic version of the email must be preserved and provided.

It was a 5-4 decision. The justices ruling in favor of disclosure were: Owens, Fairhurst, Sanders, Stephens, and Chambers.

A dissent argued that the agency examining an agency employee's home computer for public records is potentially an unlawful "search." The dissenting justices were: Alexander, Chief Justice Madsen, C. Johnson, and J. Johnson.

The Attorney General filed a "friend of the court" brief arguing against disclosure.

UPDATE: Here is an AP story about the case. Here is a blog piece by Bruce Ramsey and Lynne Varner of the Seattle Times.

NOTE: Michele Earl-Hubbard, David Norman, and Chris Roslaniec of Allied Law Group represented the public records requestors.