California Supreme Court rules government emails on private devices should be public
California’s highest court Thursday unanimously ruled the public has a right to see emails and text messages about public affairs on government officials’ personal devices, ending a decade-long legal battle that began in San Jose and sets a statewide precedent for records disclosure.
The ruling closes what government watchdogs said was a loophole that let public officials conduct the people’s business privately on personal phones and computers outside the reach of records requests that until now covered only their government-issued devices and accounts.
“We hold that when a city employee uses a personal account to communicate about the conduct of public business, the writings may be subject to disclosure under the California Public Records Act,” the court opinion said. “If public officials could evade the law simply by clicking into a different email account, or communicating through a personal device, sensitive information could routinely evade public scrutiny.”