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Atty General Advises that Personal Email Exception to Public Records Law be Narrowly Applied

Wisconsin Attorney General Van Hollen recently issued a memorandum addressing the practical impact of the recent Wisconsin Supreme Court case, Schill v. Wisconsin Rapids School District. In Schill, the Court held that the Public Records Law (Wis. Stat. 19.31-19.39) does not require the disclosure of the contents of purely personal e-mails sent or received on government e-mail accounts.

Van Hollen advises public records custodians to be mindful that it is "the public policy of this state that all persons are entitled to the greatest possible information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts of those officers and employees who represent them."

Therefore, he feels that the "purely personal e-mail" exception should be narrowly applied, and emphasized that if there is "any aspect of the e-mail that may shed light on governmental functions and responsibilities, the relevant content must be released as any other record would be released under the Public Records Law."

See the press release and full memo for more. See also the Appleton Post Crescent for reaction to the memo.

Source: The Wheeler Report