PRM files friend-of-the-court brief in Webster v. City of Bloomington data lawsuit

By Matt Ehling

Public Record Media (PRM) has filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Tony Webster v. City of Bloomington data lawsuit. PRM’s brief was filed in support of record requester Tony Webster’s pending motion to compel the City of Bloomington to produce data in response to one of his public record requests.

Webster’s request sought information about a December, 2014 Black Lives Matters protest that occurred at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. He filed his request within days of the event, and through it sought a variety of information, including certain e-mail messages in their “original form.” Minnesota’s public records law (the Minnesota Data Practices Act) permits the public to inspect and receive copies of electronic data, due to the fact that it covers a broad range of government data, as opposed to the more narrrowly-defined sets of “public records” covered by some other state laws.

While the City of Bloomington initially permitted Webster to inspect and copy files, city officials later barred him from inspecting data responsive to his request, including various forms of computer metadata. Webster subsequently filed suit.

PRM’s interest in the Webster case ultimately stems from a letter that the City of Bloomington sent to Webster, in which the City asserted that computer metadata was not covered by the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act. The City’s assertion is contrary to state law, and PRM has sought (through its friend-of-the-court brief) to help the court deciding the Webster case to understand why this is so.

PRM filed its brief in conjunction with the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information and civic data activist William Bushey. A hearing in the Webster case will be held on October 28, 2015 at 9:00 AM at the Hennepin County Courthouse. Mahesha Subberaman of Subberaman PLLC is representing PRM’s interest in the case.