PHOENIX – The Arizona Court of Appeals today unanimously ruled in favor of the Goldwater Institute in rebuking the Congress (Ariz.) Elementary School District for its efforts to permanently deny public information sought by four parents and taxpayers.
"This is the second court to tell the Congress school district that it has no case," said Clint Bolick, the Goldwater Institute’s litigation director. "Hopefully, district officials will stop trying to silence these women and instead will start following the law."
The four women have sought records over the past 10 years ranging from school board meeting minutes and agendas to their own children's school records. On at least three occasions, the state Attorney General’s office and the Arizona public records ombudsman have found the school district violated its obligations to open meetings and public records under state law.
The school district filed a lawsuit in January 2010 accusing these women of harassment, and sought to ban them from requesting public records, or from filing any sort of complaint against the school district, without first seeking permission from a court. The Goldwater Institute quickly came to their aid, representing them for free.
The school district's lawsuit was rejected by the Yavapai County Superior Court in April 2010, but the district appealed. The Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s decision today, holding that these women simply asked for records they had every right to see.
"It would defy the purpose of our public records law to deny the public rightful access to information on how the district is conducting its functions on the tenuous ground that requesting such lawful access constituted a public nuisance," wrote Judge Sheldon H. Weisberg.
Today happens to be the birthday of Jean Warren, one of the four taxpayers. "This is one of the best birthday gifts I have ever received," Mrs. Warren said. "Perhaps the school district’s outrageous behavior finally will be over."
The Goldwater Institute's Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation represented Mrs. Warren, Barbara Rejon, Cyndi Regis and Renee Behl-Hoge as the defendants in this case.
"This lawsuit is an assault on the rights of all Arizonans to open and transparent government," Mr. Bolick said. "This definitive ruling serves notice that the courts will not tolerate Arizona governments that violate the rights of their citizens."