Missouri Attorney General Claims The First Amendment Allows Him To Withhold Public Records

From techdirt.com

Missouri’s government is flexing the weirdest right now. The state’s Attorney General is currently in court trying to keep public records out of the public’s hands. This doesn’t actually stem from a public records lawsuit, but from a discovery request in a defamation lawsuit filed by a former mayor against a state representative.

Ex-Scott City mayor Ron Cummins is suing state rep Holly Rehder for defaming him while he was still in office. His discovery request has been greeted with this baffling assertion by the Attorney General. (h/t Peter Bonilla)

Cummins’ attorney requested communications from constituents making complaints to Rehder’s office.

Schmitt’s office, which is representing Rehder, argued last week that turning over those records would “violate the First Amendment rights of the constituents that made complaints.”

That’s… not something the First Amendment protects. It protects their right to make complaints, but doesn’t protect the state’s right to withhold documents. In fact, the state has no First Amendment rights. Those belong to the people, like those Schmitt disingenuously is pretending to shield from someone suing a politician over allegedly-defamatory statements.

Read more…