Not all legal documents should be private, media coalition argues

The Utah Transparency Project offers real-time assessments of legislation that could either increase or decrease public access to government records and meetings.

The Utah Transparency Project will use these symbols to rate legislation on its openness to the citizenry.

House Bill 539 — State Legal Dispute Amendments (Rep. Brady Brammer, R-Pleasant Grove)

If this bill becomes law, any document shared between government agencies regarding pending or anticipated lawsuits would be off limits to the public. And the word “anticipated” means the records would be off limits before the government is even served a demand letter or lawsuit.

The State Records Committee or courts could no longer review the documents to discern if there is a compelling public interest that would warrant their release. Any correspondence between the attorney general’s office and the governor’s office or the Legislature about any potential or pending legal claim would categorically be off-limits. And they would stay secret forever, even after the litigation is complete.Lawsuits involving the state involve strategic decision-making and planning, which we might not want broadcast publicly — and that is why GRAMA has an exception for such material.

When public money or policy is at stake, we shouldn’t be taking a broad swath of material and automatically make it so the public has no right to access it. That’s why this bill receives a “Closed Door” from The Utah Transparency Project.