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Court rules lawmakers exempt from open-records laws!

WND Staff

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'It is troubling'

 March 8, 2020 

(Image courtesy Pixabay)

Georgia's General Assembly effectively was given permission to conduct its business without the public accountability provided by the state's records law after the state Supreme Court refused to take up a lawsuit.

The Institute for Justice challenged the Georgia General Assembly's exemption from the state Open Records Act, which subjects "every state office" to its requirements.

The Fifth Division of the Court of Appeals of Georgia ruled last year that the General Assembly is not subject to a law unless it's named in the text of the law. IJ sued after Georgia officials refused to turn over records related to the state's music-therapy licensing law.


"It is troubling that the Georgia Supreme Court will not consider whether the state legislature is allowed to keep secrets about how it governs," said IJ Senior Vice President and Litigation Director Dana Berliner. "Open access to public records is vital in any free society."

He said that when the Georgia General Assembly passed the Open Records Act, "it did not exempt itself even though it could have made that explicit."

"The court's decision to take a pass will mean lawmakers can hide their decision making from the people," he argued.

A lower court had ruled the legislature exempt, and since the state Supreme Court declined to take the case, the lower-court ruling stands.

The institute said the result in Georgia "reflects a troubling trend at the local, state and federal levels, as governments and agencies are stonewalling requests from the very citizens, journalists and activists that keep an eye on them."

"In this case, the government's argument – that the General Assembly is not explicitly mentioned in Georgia's Open Records Act and thus the General Assembly effectively exempted itself from its own law – is particularly concerning."

The institute said that consequently, the state's residents will have trouble now obtaining truthful information and government officials will be insulated from oversight.

"We are disappointed that the Supreme Court of Georgia has declined to review this issue of great public importance," said Alex Harris of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, which represented IJ in the suit.

"As a result of this decision, Georgians cannot use the Open Records Act to learn basic information about how their elected representatives do their jobs."