Feb 27, 2024 - News

Judge orders release of Utah attorney general's work calendar

Sean Reyes looks up in front of an American flag.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes. Photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images.

A Utah judge sided with journalists on Tuesday in the records fight to determine whether state Attorney General Sean Reyes' work calendar can be released to the public.

The big picture: The legal battle comes as the Republican-controlled state Legislature fast tracks a bill that would make the calendars of public officials secret and not subject to Utah's open records law.

What they're saying: "By giving [employees] extensive access ... the attorney general's office has self-defined this is not personal," Judge Patrick Corum said in the courtroom before ordering its release.

The other side: In a statement, the attorney general's office said the judge's ruling "is contrary to the intent and clear language of the statute. While we respect the legal process, we disagree with the ruling."

Catch up quick: The State Records Committee in May 2023 granted the release to KSL TV's investigative team after they filed a public records request seeking it in late 2022.

  • Reyes subsequently filed a lawsuit to block the move, citing it was not subject to Utah's open record law.

Zoom in: Under the state's Government Records Access and Management Act, "a daily calendar or personal note ... for the originator's personal use" is not a public record.

  • "This case is not about secrecy and it's not about keeping records from the public. It's about statutory interpretation," assistant attorney general Vanessa Walsh argued Monday.

Between the lines: The ruling is a major win for government transparency, David Reymann, an attorney representing KSL TV, told reporters.

  • "The public has a right to know what their public officials are doing and how they're doing their jobs," he said. "The tactical decision by Attorney General Reyes to try to keep that information from the public was unfortunate."
  • The bill moving through the Legislature will impact future public records requests, meaning Reyes will need to turn over his calendar regardless of what state lawmakers advance, Reymann noted.

What's next: The attorney general's office plans to appeal the ruling.

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