Carlson v. Pima County

In Carlson v. Pima County, 141 Ariz. 487, 687 P.2d 1242 (1984), an inmate filed a defamation action against Pima County and its sheriff, among others, based on the release of an "offense report" under the Public Records Law. The report implicated the plaintiff/inmate in an alleged assault on another inmate. In affirming the trial court's directed verdict in favor of defendants, our supreme court held: A.R.S. 39-121.01(B) requires the keeping of records sufficient to provide the public with "knowledge" of all of the activities of a public officer and of the manner in which he conducts his office and performs his duty. For purposes of inspection and access, all records required to be made and maintained by 39-121.01(B) and preserved by (C) are to be available for inspection under 39-121 and copying under 39-121.01(D), subject to the official's discretion to deny or restrict access where recognition of the interests of privacy, confidentiality, or the best interest of the state in carrying out its legitimate activities outweigh the general policy of open access. Carlson, 141 Ariz. at 491, 687 P.2d at 1246. Addressing the question of what constitutes public records or other matters for purposes of the public's right to inspection, id., the court in Carlson stated: Section 39-121.01(B) creates a statutory mandate which, in effect, requires all officers to make and maintain records reasonably necessary to provide knowledge of all activities they undertake in the furtherance of their duties. We think that the objective implicitly expressed in 39-121.01 is to broadly define those records which are open to the public for inspection under 39-121, thus obviating the need for any technical distinction between "public records" or "other matters," insofar as the right to inspection by the public is concerned. Cf. Mathews v. Pyle, supra. In so holding, we approve of dispensing with an initial determination of whether a document is a "public record" or an "other matter" and moving directly to a determination of whether or not the countervailing interests enunciated in Mathews v. Pyle, supra, override the policy of disclosure. Id. at 490, 687 P.2d at 1245.