Red Apple Mom

April 29, 2011

Judge Rules on Email Exemption for Superintendent

Attorneys representing Clifton parent Jill D. Hill, the plaintiff who is suing the Fairfax County School Board over Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) violations, left Fairfax County Circuit Court today with a small victory.  

The judge heard arguments today from both sides in the case about whether redacted email communications between Dr. Dale and School Board members should be released.

Attorneys for Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) have argued for months that the Superintendent’s communications fall under the executive privilege exemption.

Today they lost that argument all because of two little letters and a colon sign – “cc:” 

Judge Leslie Alden ruled today that simply “cc’ing” the superintendent did not make an FCPS email exchange exempt.  She concluded that once an email goes beyond a correspondent and the CEO of the school system – Superintendent Dale – the email loses the exemption under executive privilege.

In other words, once several School Board members were also copied, the email then became School Board material.  Simply having Superintendent Dale copied on the email does not provide it with exemption protection.

The judge warned the plaintiff’s attorney, “There is nothing in these documents that I have seen that makes a hill’s beans of difference [in this case].”   The judge later added, “What may mean nothing to me may mean something to you.”

FCPS’ attorney, Tom Cawley of Hunton & Williams, also commented that the redacted emails FCPS claimed under executive privilege are essentially, “innocuous.”

Plaintiff’s attorney Michael Guiffre of Patton Boggs stated after the hearing, “To the extent they [the FCPS School Board] are saying those emails are meaningless, they could have given them up in the beginning and saved thousands of taxpayer dollars in legal fees.”

Indeed Mr. Guiffre.  Indeed.

A final ruling in the case of Jill D. Hill versus the Fairfax County School Board is expected any day now.

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