Alaska State Superior Court Judge Craig Stowers today ordered the administration of Gov. Sarah Palin to preserve emails she sent from her private Yahoo! email account dating back to December 2006. (The Public Record) This key Freedom of Information Act ruling, which could have national implications, emphasized two major points:
- Emails sent or received through personal email accounts are public records if they concern official state business. (Anchorage Daily News)
- It specifically ordered Alaska Attorney General Talis Colberg to immediately contact Yahoo!, an out of state company, and to begin the process of preserving emails dating back to 2006 and retrieve all emails and attachments that may have been destroyed after Palin’s account was deactivated following the hack.
Stowers’ ruling did not ban the use of personal email accounts. Instead, these accounts may be used provided that the state can ensure the emails are properly saved and made accessible.
While dozens of states are having Freedom of Information Act and open records battles regarding email, this battle is likely to have national influence because of the national publicity given to Governor Palin during her run for vice president. It may set the tone for rulings in other states.