Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Utah Supreme Court Decides in Favor of Open Records

Court rules statutory GRAMA exceptions are to be interpreted narrowly

By Dan Schroeder

The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance has won its lawsuit to obtain state geographic records pertaining to right-of-way claims through public lands. This is (at least) the second time this year that the Utah Supreme Court has issued a firm and unanimous ruling in favor of open records, specifically finding that the statutory exceptions to GRAMA are to be interpreted narrowly.

Although the facts of the case are different from the Sierra Club's lawsuit against Ogden City, I find this decision very encouraging.

Also, it's of interest to us that SUWA was represented in this case by Western Resource Advocates, whose attorneys have worked closely with the Ogden Sierra Club on various issues. Dave Becker, who argued this case before the Utah Supreme Court, was the attorney who advised us informally during the administrative appeal process that led up to our lawsuit. Unfortunately for Utah, Dave has since moved on to a job in Oregon.

A copy of the decision is linked below:
Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, et al. v. The Automated Geographic Reference Center, et al.


RudiZink said...

Thanks again for the submission Dan. Indeed it is encouraging to see the Utah High Court ruling in favor of the spirit of the Utah GRAMA law.

And now that you've mentioned the subject, how 'bout a quick update on the Ogden GRAMA case?

Has the city complied with the most recent court order requiring specifics re the city's claimed GRAMA production exceptions...

Or have Godfrey's high-priced lawyers taken the order up on appeal?

Curmudgeon said...

Wow. The court's opinion is as effective a fisking of an argument as I've seen in a while.

I suspect we are going to see new legislation fairly soon, expanding the GRAMA exemptions to meet the court's objections in this decision. Supporting public access to public records is not, I suspect, a legislative goal high on the current leadership's agenda.

dan s. said...


The Sierra Club's GRAMA case vs. Ogden City is crawling along. As you'll recall, the judge granted our motion requesting that Ogden produce an index of the withheld records. Ogden gave us the index in late October. The index is fully itemized with 41 records individually identified by author, recipients, and date. However, the index does not yet provide enough information for us to ascertain whether the claimed GRAMA exemptions apply to every record. Furthermore, the index omits some records that are known to exist yet have not been provided by the city. So we've informed Ogden's attorneys of these problems and are currently working to resolve these issues.


If you enjoy reading such fiskings, take a look at the Supremes' decision from last March in DesNews v. SL County, ordering the county to release its report on a case of sexual harassment. The 2008 court has issued a double-whammy against government entities that try to interpret GRAMA exemptions too broadly.

I hope the legislature won't try to expand the very general exemptions that were at issue in the SUWA case: attorney-client privilege, attorney work product, personal drafts, and duplicate requests. Such a change would have too many side effects and render the law much harder to interpret. I suppose that the legislature could try to add a new exemption specifically to cover the geographic records that SUWA is after. But that would be kinda pointless now since by the time the law could be changed, SUWA will have the records.

In any case, we should always keep an eye on the legislature. You never know what they'll come up with next.

Bill C. said...

Dan, am I reading this right? It seems to me that the court says that simply saying it's a draft doesn't mean it can be denied. That seems to be this city's biggest reason for denial. The court seems to be saying that even though it a draft, it's a public draft, and we have a right to view it.

jason w. said...

Well, you collective egghead treehuggers are again demonstrating your anti-business bias, and I intend to expose you in due time. The photographer and writer of Backcountry magazine must have missed the memo about it being taboo to mention Snowbasin and Mt. Ogden in the same sentence; they might have something awesomely high-adventure to say about Ogden; they must have missed the Smart Growth Ogden meeting and are not on that email list where they could receive anti-business propaganda and other glops of critical-thinking or intelligent morass; the [sic] must not know of this paradise that lies a mere 35 miles from the U. of U. campus, where 70% of the out-of-state studentbody cited OUTDOOR RECREATION as a reason for their collegiate choice -- YES! MERRY CHRISTMAS! Lift Ogden! (Sorry, I can't provide you with the colored-and-font-sized-changed-extravagance of Short-deck, but you get the gist.) And to all you brave but moronic & brain-dead Squirrel Patrollers out there, who follow in the hallowed and deep footprints of the famed Wayne Peterson, whose vest and Thorazine predilictions know no bounds, on behalf of the WCForum -- scratch that, just from me: Pound holiday sand, clowns! Where's your gondola? Where is it? Where's your ice dildo? Where is it? May God bless your ignorance and idiocy this holiday season, and keep you well and safe in your high-adventure sleeping bags of numbness and Harrisville dwarf hero worship. May you awake tomorrow to find Descente jackets and Goodie ski poles under your high-adventure trees, as well as some high-adventure bindings courtesy of Gondola Boy Mike Dowse, Jackass! Merry Christmas indeed, dolts! Drive safely and keep the driveways clear!


dan s. said...


GRAMA contains two different exemptions for drafts. The one that AGRC apparently tried to use is for personal scribblings that aren't even included in the definition of a record. As soon as these are shared with even one other person they become records (though potentially still exempt from disclosure under some other provision). Ogden, on the other hand, is trying to use a different provision that exempts more formal drafts in many, but not all, cases.

dan s. said...

p.s. You might wonder why AGRC then didn't try to invoke the second draft exemption mentioned above. I suppose the reason must be that that exemption explicitly does not apply to empirical data, and the records in question consist of empirical data.

Ogden Driver said...

Jason,speaking of short deck he was fun to watch yesterday as he came through S Ogden interchange onto Harrison, you know the type stays in the left lane to get every last second, then put on his blinker which you can't miss with that yellow Japenese Descente stickers. He cut off a normal driver that plans his driving in a truck with some kids just in time to make it onto Harrison, then proceded on Harrison tail gating another car with the slick roads.

You would think someone as smart as he would be more polite since some folks here in the hood might actually buy some of his cheap Japanese clothes. His truck does stanout with all the advertising. Instead I'm sure he PO a few folks with his agressive driving , but then again his mini-truck is his manhood...

republican said...

Those liberal activists judges. Its a good thing Huntsman is govenor, because he will put an end to that, with Chris Butters help.

dan s. said...


Of the five Utah Supreme Court justices, four were appointed by Michael Leavitt. The fifth--Chief Justice Durham--was appointed by Scott Matheson.

county court records said...

Nice information, The best way to this case is to use county court records Its my suggestion

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