Sep 14

KBM Lawyers

New Ruling on Public Records Act

by KBM Lawyers

On August 27, the Washington Supreme Court issued a groundbreaking opinion on the Public Records Act in Nissen v. Pierce County and Lindquist. KBM’s Stew Estes intervened in the trial court on behalf of Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Lindquist.

The Court held that records created on an employee’s private cell phone that are work related can be subject to the PRA. A records request was made for text messages sent, and the cell service provider’s log of all calls and texts on a certain day, similar to an itemized cell phone bill. The Court rejected the latter request, holding that “[t]he text messages are potentially public records; the call and text message logs are not.”

The Court did not address Lindquist’s argument that the US and Washington constitutions and federal statutes precluded the Court or the County from ordering him to surrender his private records. It held instead: “Lindquist must obtain a transcript of the content of all the text messages at issue, review them, and produce to the County any that are public records consistent with our opinion. The County must then review those messages just as it would any other public record-and apply any applicable exemptions, redact information if necessary, and produce the records and any exemption log to Nissen.”

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“Steve Thorsrud of Keating, Bucklin and McCormack was my lawyer. He put me at ease, and he did a great job of representing me through trial.”

Clarence Tolliver, Seattle, WA