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Arizona Court Rules On Conversation Protections For Public Employees
Arizona’s Court of Appeals upended an earlier decision by Attorney General Mark Brnovich on what is considered private versus public business conversations for public employees.
The judges ruled unanimously on a case involving the Department of Public Safety and whether officers could claim texts written on their personal cell phones can be withheld from review.
Brnovich had argued the only time messages from private cell phones are for public record is when they are stored in a government database.
But, First Amendment Coalition attorney Dan Barr said it is the intent of the communications, not what type of device or who owns it that matters.
"If you're going to try to circumvent the public records law by using your Gmail account or texting, then the onus is on you to maintain those records," Barr said.
The case stems from a family’s lawsuit against a DPS officer investigating their son’s 2012 fatal accident.
The judges agreed the officer’s purely personal records on his cell are not subject to review, but that line between public and private must be decided by a court, not the employee.