State Records Committee Appeal Decision 2020-31
BEFORE THE STATE RECORDS COMMITTEE OF THE STATE OF UTAH
TREVOR LEE, Petitioner, v.
UTAH DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS. Respondent.
DECISION AND ORDER
Case No. 20-31
By this appeal, Petitioner, Trevor Lee, counsel for Patrick Sullivan, seeks access to records allegedly held by Respondent, Utah Department of Corrections.
On or about January 9, 2020, Mr. Lee, counsel for Patrick Sullivan made a request for records pursuant to the Government Records Access and Management Act (“GRAMA”). Mr. Lee requested various records and communications, most of which related to Patrick Sullivan. Mr. Lee also requested a fee waiver because Mr. Sullivan is the subject of the records and is impecunious.
On January 23, 2020, Respondent notified Mr. Lee that due to the voluminous nature of the request, Respondent would need additional time to either approve or deny the request. Also included in the response was a request for clarification on a few additional matters.
Mr. Lee provided clarification on the additional matters and also notified Respondent that he would not narrow the search term from his initial request. Respondent notified Mr. Lee that they would treat his request for multiple records as separate requests and would respond sequentially. Respondent also gave Mr. Lee a fee estimate of $541.00.
Mr. Lee appealed the response and disputed both the denial of a fee waiver and the decision to separate his request into multiple requests claiming that time was of the essence and the records were needed as soon as possible. On or about March 3, 2020, Mr. Lee’s appeal was denied.
Thereafter, Petitioner filed an appeal with the State Records Committee (“Committee”). On August 13, 2020, the Committee held a hearing during which the parties were allowed to participate electronically and present their arguments. After carefully considering the requested relief of the parties, the Committee issues the following Decision and Order.
STATEMENT OF REASONS FOR DECISION
1. Mr. Lee argued that a fee waiver should be granted for Mr. Sullivan because Mr. Sullivan is the subject of the records, his legal rights are directly implicated by the information in the record, and Mr. Sullivan is impecunious. See, Utah Code § 63G-2-203(4)(b) & (c).
2. After hearing arguments from both parties, the Committee is convinced that for some of the records, Mr. Sullivan is the subject of the records and his legal rights may be directly implicated by the records. The Committee is also convinced that Mr. Sullivan is impecunious. Accordingly, the Committee finds that a fee waiver should be granted by Corrections for those records which Mr. Sullivan is the subject of the records and also directly implicate his legal rights. However, for the remainder of the requested records, Corrections’ determination that a fee waiver should be denied is hereby affirmed.
3. Regarding the request for an expedited response and the voluminous nature of the records request, the parties agreed to work together regarding a schedule for production of records.
THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED THAT the appeal of Petitioner, Trevor Lee, is hereby GRANTED in PART, and DENIED in PART.
RIGHT TO APPEAL
A party to a proceeding before the Committee may seek judicial review in District Court of a Committee's Order by filing a petition for review of the Committee Order as provided in Utah Code § 63G-2-404. Utah Code § 63G-2-403(14). A petition for judicial review of a Committee Order "shall be filed no later than 30 days" after the date of the Committee Order. Utah Code § 63G-2-404(1)(a). The petition for judicial review must be a complaint which is governed by the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure and include the Committee as a necessary party and contain the required information listed in Subsection -404(2). Utah Code § 63G-2-404(1) & (2). The court shall make its decision de novo but shall allow introduction of evidence presented to the Committee, determine all questions of fact and law without a jury, and decide the issue at the earliest practical opportunity. Utah Code § 63G-2-404(6). In order to protect a parties’ rights on appeal, a party may wish to seek advice from an attorney.
Pursuant to Utah Code § 63G-2-403(15)(c), if the Committee orders the governmental entity to produce a record and no appeal is filed, the government entity herein shall comply with the order of the Committee and shall: (1) Produce the record; and (2) File a notice of compliance with the Committee. If the governmental entity ordered to produce a record fails to file a notice of compliance or a notice of intent to appeal, the Committee may do either or both of the following: (1) Impose a civil penalty of up to $500 for each day of continuing noncompliance; or (2) Send written notice of the entity's noncompliance to the Governor. Utah Code § 63G-2-403(15)(d)(i)(B). In imposing a civil penalty, the Committee shall consider the gravity and circumstances of the violation, including whether the failure to comply was due to neglect or was willful or intentional. Utah Code § 63G-2-403(15)(d)(ii).
Entered this 24 day of August 2020.
BY THE STATE RECORDS COMMITTEE
Chair, State Records Committee
Page Last Updated September 14, 2020 .