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Denial of electronic access violates state sunshine law

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Denial of electronic access violates state sunshine law12/27/94 MISSOURI -- In late November a Cole County judge found that the…

Denial of electronic access violates state sunshine law

12/27/94

MISSOURI — In late November a Cole County judge found that the Missouri Revisor of Statutes violated the state sunshine law by restricting access to the electronic form of the state Revised Statutes.

Springfield lawyer Patrick Deaton sued the Revisor of Statutes, Ralph Kidd, in Cole County Circuit Court after Kidd refused to provide Deaton with a copy of the Revised Statutes in electronic form. Kidd told Deaton that the Revised Statues were not a public record and that Deaton would have to purchase a copy of the computerized version from a private vendor.

Cole County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Brown III ruled that the Revisor of Statutes was a “public governmental body” and the Revised Statutes themselves were a “public record.” The court found that under the sunshine law the Revisor of Statutes was required to make the material available to the public.

The court also ruled that the Revisor of Statutes improperly collected a royalty under a contract with a private company that manufactured and marketed the Revised Statutes on diskette and CD-ROM. Two companies each paid the Revisor approximately $10,000 from sales of the computerized version of the Revised Statutes.

The court found that the Revisor purposely denied access to the records in question, and therefore purposely violated the sunshine law.

Judge Brown ordered the Revisor of Statutes to provide Deaton or any other person with a copy of the computer version of the Revised Statutes at the cost of duplication and staff time necessary to prepare a copy. The court also required the Revisor to pay Deaton’s costs and attorney fees.

(Deaton v. Kidd; Media Counsel: Patrick Deaton, Springfield)