In Lueders v. Krug (2018AP431), the Court of Appeals District II held that open records requesters have the right to receive electronic copies of email records.
Bill Lueders, editor of The Progressive magazine and president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, emailed an open records request to Wisconsin state Rep. Scott Krug (R-Nekoosa) for records on several water-related bills in the 2015-16 legislative session. Krug’s office printed out related emails, and Lueders came in person to look at the printouts. A few days later, Lueders sent Krug another email requesting the records in electronic form.
Krug argued he had already satisfied the open records request by providing the printouts of the emails, which were “substantially as readable as the original” according to Wis. Stat. s. 19.35(1)(b). However, the court noted that the full context of that statutory provision requires copies of records to be “substantially as readable” only if the requester makes the request in person. Lueders made his requests via email. The court further determined that electronic email records contain substantially different information (i.e. metadata about the sender, recipient, attachments, location of server, etc.) than printed email records. Therefore, the email printouts were not a sufficient response to Lueders’s enhanced request for electronic copies.
Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, the MacIver Institute, Badger Institute, and Americans for Prosperity-Wisconsin filed an amicus brief supporting Lueders in this case.