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FOIL: EMAIL ADDRESS List Released under Freedom of Information Law

MATTER OF RUSSELL v. Town of Mount Pleasant, is going to have a big impact on local politics when folks want the electronic mail addresses of those subscribed to an "agency," as defined by the Public Officers Law, New York Freedom of Information Law. The Freedom of Information Law is your right to know, without a reason, what local government maintains in its files - Public Officers Law Sections 84 to 89 codifies the FOIL, an important Civil Right.

In MATTER OF RUSSELL v. Town of Mount Pleasant, 2024 NY Slip Op 2920 - NY: Appellate Div., 2nd Dept., 2024, all the subscriber's electronic mail addresses (e-mail) are now released under Freedom of Information Law, the FOIL: the request "seeking a list of the names and email addresses of all residents who subscribe to receive email updates regarding items posted on the Town's website," was released after the "Town supervisor denied the petitioner's request."

While the records law known as "FOIL," Freedom of Information Law, requires record production in five (5) or twenty (20) business days, in actuality , lower courts (Supreme Court, FOIL first judicial review) routinely excuse agency delays for much longer. As the case may be, this creates an ambiguity as to when one can file a Freedom of Information Law lawsuit, an Article 78 Litigation/Article 78 Freedom of Information Law lawsuit. Here, the lower court got it right and ordered the release of the records to James Russell, described by the Court as a pro se litigant.

MATTER OF RUSSELL v. Town of Mount Pleasant, 2024 NY Slip Op 2920 - NY: Appellate Div., 2nd Dept., 2024, aside from the enormous political implications of obtaining these email lists, is of enormous import because of the often cited "privacy" exemption to the NY FOIL, access to records under the Freedom of Information Law, however, the Court notes:

the Town did not demonstrate the applicability of any of the enumerated categories under Public Officers Law § 89(2)(b), nor did the Town show that the privacy interests at stake outweighed the public interest in the disclosure of the requested documents (see Matter of Livson v Town of Greenburgh, 141 AD3d 658, 661). The petitioner seeks "to communicate with other residents regarding significant details of a proposed new master plan and zoning code, as well as a Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS) review" by obtaining the names and email addresses of residents who subscribe to E-news, persons who have willingly divulged that information to the Town so that they may receive news and information, in electronic form, on matters of public concern. The Town's contention that public disclosure of the requested documents could "expose the email addresses" of the E-news subscribers or the Town "to unnecessary cybersecurity risks" is speculative, as the Town failed to show that disclosure of those documents to the petitioner under the conditions imposed by the Supreme Court would make the E-news subscribers or the Town more susceptible to such risks than they ordinarily would be (see id.).

The case is MATTER OF RUSSELL v. Town of Mount Pleasant, 2024 NY Slip Op 2920 - NY: Appellate Div., 2nd Dept., 2024 holding that the 'E-news' Town's website email addresses must be released. The lower court decision is affirmed, unanimously.

Cory H. Morris, Esq. New York and Florida, Injury, Addiction, Accident, Call the Law Offices of Cory H. Morris, 631-450-2515 (NYS) (954)-745-4592 (FLA)

New York State Freedom of Information Law - State/Federal - Freedom of Information Law and Freedom of Information Act | Call 631-450-2515 or E-Mail to arrange for an evaluation of your matter (injury, accident, traffic matter, criminal matter or appellate matter also).


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