Private E-mail and Other Electronic Communications Held Not Subject to the Public Records Act (K-12)

On March 27, 2014, the Court of Appeal in San Jose released its decision in City of San Jose v. Superior Court (Smith) (2014) 225 Cal.App.4th 75, 169 Cal.Rptr.3d 840. The case involved a public records request by a citizen seeking several categories of private e-mails and text messages sent by the City’s mayor and City Council members. The lower court ruled in favor of the citizen, and the officials asked the Court of Appeal to review that ruling. The Court of Appeal overturned the trial court’s decision, and concluded that communications sent using private cell phones or on private e-mail accounts were not public records that had to be disclosed.