PHOENIX—A Yavapai County Superior Court judge has thrown out a lawsuit filed by the Congress, Arizona Elementary School District seeking to have four taxpayers barred from requesting public documents and school records about their children.
“The rights of all Arizonans are on firmer ground after this decision. This is a milestone victory for government transparency,” said Clint Bolick, director of the Goldwater Institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation, which represented Jean Warren, Jennifer Renee Hoge, Cyndi Regis and Barbara Rejon.
Late Thursday, Judge David L. Mackey dismissed the lawsuit and also imposed penalties on the school district for using the lawsuit to harass one of the defendants.
Contrary to the school district’s assertions that these four had filed an overwhelming number of requests, only a single request for documents is waiting to be addressed, Judge Mackey noted in his ruling. The school district’s attempt to forbid the four taxpayers from requesting public documents, unless they receive permission from an independent party, “would require that the Court re-write Arizona’s Public Records law,” Judge Mackey wrote.
The judge also said the school district’s claim of harassment was inappropriate because the four defendants had taken no action that could be considered “frightening, dangerous or otherwise alarming.”
Judge Mackey imposed sanctions on the Congress school district for including Jennifer Renee Hoge in the lawsuit. Ms. Hoge hasn’t lived in the Congress area for six years and had filed only three requests in 2002 and 2003 when her son attended the elementary school. Mackey ruled that Ms. Hoge was named as a defendant only because she is the daughter of Jean Warren. “Not only is that offensive to this Court’s sense of justice, but it is groundless, constitutes harassment and is not made in good faith,” Judge Mackey wrote in his ruling.
“I am thankful that we are coming to the end of this sad chapter in Congress’ history,” defendant Jean Warren said. “I would hope that Judge Mackey’s ruling sends a loud and clear message to other districts that there are groups of concerned citizens who have the foresight to make resources available to defend the public’s rights, which are eroding more and more each year. I am forever in the Goldwater Institute’s debt.”
Click here to learn more about this lawsuit, Congress School District v. Warren, and to read a report about the case by Goldwater Institute Investigative Reporter Mark Flatten. The Goldwater Institute is an independent government watchdog supported by people who are committed to expanding free enterprise and liberty.