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Appeals court says 'private' work e-mail not public records

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  1. Freedom of Information
A Michigan appeals court ruled yesterday that the state's Freedom of Information Act does not apply to so-called "personal" e-mail…

A Michigan appeals court ruled yesterday that the state’s Freedom of Information Act does not apply to so-called "personal" e-mail messages sent from government work accounts, AnnArbor.com reported.

The ruling, which stemmed from a FOIA request for e-mail messages exchanged between public school teachers and members of the education association and school board in Howell, Michigan, concluded that a "mere violation of an acceptable use policy barring personal use of the email system — at least one that does not expressly provide that emails are subject to FOIA — does not render personal emails public records subject to FOIA."

A trial court said in 2007 that the messages in question were subject to the public records law because they were stored on the school system’s server, but the three-judge appeals court panel said that "for the emails at issue to be public records, they must have been stored or retained by defendants in the performance of an official function" and merely being housed on the server was not enough.