Supreme Court Won’t Review Teacher Email Case

HOWELL, Mich. — The Michigan Supreme Court has let stand a lower court ruling that email messages sent on public school computers are not public records and therefore not subject to open records requests, the Lansing State Journal reported.

In a 5-2 vote, justices declined to review the earlier ruling, according to the Journal. Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. wanted to hear the case, the Journal reported, calling it an important case involving interpretation of Michigan public records laws.

The case was brought in 2007 by now-deceased Chetly Zarko, who filed a Freedom of Information Act seeking copies of email exchanged by Howell Public Schools teachers’ union leaders, according to an earlier media report. Zarko, who died in 2010, said he wanted to determine if the union was using public school resources to lobby parents and school officials during a controversial round of collective bargaining.

In 2010, the Court of Appeals ruled against the public disclosure but urged lawmakers to reopen the 1977 law and consider the impact of technology, the Journal reported.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy and the Michigan Press Association jointly filed an amicus brief in the case seeking to have the Supreme Court overturn the ruling. The Mackinac Center publishes Michigan Education Digest.

Lansing State Journal, “Michigan Supreme Court sits out dispute over school email,” June 29, 2011