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Narrow Public Record Request for Emails Does not Require Search Terms

In the case of State ex rel. Cleveland Assn. of Rescue Emps. v. Cleveland, Slip Opinion No. 2023-Ohio-3112, the Ohio Supreme Court held that a public office could not summarily deny a public records request from a union for email correspondence spanning the course of a month simply because it did not contain search terms to limit the request.

In this case, the union argued that the request, which sought email correspondence between three employees spanning the course of a month, was specific enough for the city to produce the records requested and that the city automatically denied the request for lack of search terms instead of reviewing the request to determine if responsive emails could be obtained. In response, the city argued that the request was overbroad without search terms and would require the city to produce too large a volume of public records, such that it was reasonable to deny the request and require the union produce search terms before a substantive response. The Ohio Supreme Court agreed with the union.

In support of its decision in favor of the union, the Ohio Supreme Court explained that the emails requested were only between two employees over a 27-day period and a third employee’s emails over that same period, which is not too large of a request. The Ohio Supreme Court further explained that a public record request does not need to include search terms if the requested record is narrow enough within its own right.

To read this case, click here.

Authors: Matthew John Markling and the McGown & Markling Team.

Note: This blog entry does not constitute – nor does it contain – legal advice. Legal jurisprudence is like the always-changing Midwestern weather. As a result, this single blog entry cannot substitute for consultation with a McGown & Markling attorney. If legal advice is needed with respect to a specific factual situation, please feel free to contact a McGown & Markling attorney.

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