Appeals Court Rules Email Address In Government Documents Are Public Records

The New Mexico Court of Appeals on Jan. 31, 2020, confirmed a district court ruling that email addresses of applicants for hunting licenses are public records subject to disclosure under the Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA).

The case stems from a 2017 IPRA request made by former Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn to the Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) for the names and email addresses of more than 300,000 applicants for New Mexico hunting licenses.  The department provided the names but denied providing the email addresses stating the email addresses did not constitute a public record.  Seventh Judicial District Court Judge Matthew Reynolds ruled the NMDGF’s reason for the denial did not fall under any IPRA disclosure exception.

The Department appealed the lower court decision.

The Appeals Court decision stated that information collected from the public in connection with the administration of its public duties falls within the meaning of public records and are subject to disclosure.  In its ruling the Courts also stated that to exclude the information was tantamount to creating a new policy-based exception not identified in IPRA.

“We commend the Appeals Court for its decision to uphold IPRA and reject any efforts by state agencies or department to create their own exceptions,” Melanie J. Majors, Foundation for Open Government executive director, said. “This ruling confirms that all non-exempt records must be provided and within the timeframe set by law.”