- Associated Press - Thursday, June 8, 2017

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - Vermont officials want the state Supreme Court to rule that private email accounts of state employees should be shielded from public records laws.

State Solicitor General Ben Battles said in arguments before the court on Wednesday that accepting state employment shouldn’t open up someone’s personal life to scrutiny.

“Does accepting state employment mean that any member of the public can compel a search of your personal email and text messaging accounts on demand?” Battles asked the court.

The Burlington Free Press reports (https://bfpne.ws/2r4D2Oz) that Brady Toensing, a lawyer and the vice chairman of the Vermont Republican Party, sued the state after the attorney general declined to ask state workers whether their personal email accounts contained any public records.

A judge ruled in favor of the state, and Toensing appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.

“This case is about ensuring an open government, which is a fundamental principle of our democracy and the law’s sole purpose,” Toensing told the court Wednesday.

Vermont policy requires employees to use their government email for public business unless they receive special permission to use personal accounts. The state changed its email policy in 2015 amid widespread criticism of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email account for public business and over concern that Vermont state employees were relying on personal email accounts.

The Vermont Press Association, a group of news organizations from across the state, filed a court brief in support of Toensing’s appeal.

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Information from: The Burlington Free Press, https://www.burlingtonfreepress.com

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