Supreme Court of New Hampshire Orders Electronic Format for Right to Know Law Production
The Supreme Court of New Hampshire recently held in Green v. School Administrative Unit #55 & a., Case No. 2015-0274 (April 19, 2016), that a plaintiff was entitled to documents in electronic format. Plaintiff, a member of a school board, requested budget documents. In response, the school board chair requested that Plaintiff file a motion for the documents on behalf of the board. She did make such a request pursuant to New Hampshire’s Right-to-Know Law.
The board told her to make an appointment “to view the documents”. Plaintiff replied that she wanted the documents to instead be sent to her electronically. The board refused, and she made the request on two other occasions for the documents to be provided to her in electronic format. The board insisted that its written policy was for no electronic copies to be provided. Plaintiff sued, alleging violations of the Right-to-Know Law and demanded the electronic file. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss, which the lower court granted, stating that a public entity has the right to choose whether to produce Right-to-Know documents in hard copy or electronic format. Plaintiff filed a motion for reconsideration, which was denied; she then appealed to the New Hampshire Supreme Court.
Both parties set forth different interpretations of the statute, and the Supreme Court deemed the statute ambiguous, so that both parties’ interpretations were reasonable. After looking at legislative history and the time and expense to Defendant, the court held that Plaintiff was entitled to production in electronic format. The court noted that the purpose of the law was to improve public access to government records and that electronic format is efficient and cost effective for production. Therefore, the court reversed the lower court’s decision, and ordered the documents be sent in electronic form to Plaintiff.