Judge to ponder dismissal of Palin e-mail lawsuit

Posted: Thursday, December 24, 2009

ANCHORAGE - Assistant Attorney General Michael Mitchell asked an Anchorage judge to dismiss a lawsuit involving e-mail messages that former Gov. Sarah Palin and her top administration officials sent one another outside of the state's computer network.

Mitchell told Superior Court Judge Patrick McKay on Tuesday it would be inappropriate to declare that every line of e-mail or shred of paper produced in the operation of government is an official state record. State officials entrusted with conducting public business should be able to judge what is and is not subject to disclosure, he said.

And, Mitchell added, if non-state e-mail servers such as Yahoo are to be banned for state business, that should be a matter for the Alaska Legislature to decide, not a court.

McKay took the motion for dismissal under advisement and said he will probably make a decision after the holidays.

Activist Andree McLeod has been seeking copies of Palin's e-mail messages. In a lawsuit, she argues that Palin and members of her administration violated records law by using outside networks to discuss matters of public concern.

McLeod's attorney, Don Mitchell, told the judge his client was not seeking every e-mail ever sent by a state official, so the state's argument is irrelevant. He noted that current laws governing open records already imply that public records can't be produced and maintained outside of state control.

Though the state is fighting the lawsuit, Gov. Sean Parnell banned Palin's e-mail practices after replacing her in July. In the event an official can't use the state e-mail system, they must to forward a copy of the e-mail from their personal account to the state for archiving.

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