Nevada Supreme Court ruling ties headline writers in a knot

Nevada Supreme Court justices. Can you name all seven? Click on photo to see how you fared.

The headline in the Reno newspaper reads: “Nevada court says PERS records are public.”

The headline in the Carson City newspaper reads: “PERS files are confidential, court rules.”

They are both right.

This past week the Reno Gazette-Journal obtained a unanimous Nevada Supreme Court ruling in its favor. The paper had sued the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Nevada (PERS) under the public records law, seeking the names of all 47,000 individuals who are collecting pensions, the names of their government employers, their salaries, their hire and retirement dates, and the amounts of their pension payments.

The court opinion, written by Justice Ron Parraguirre, noted that a lower court had  granted the newspaper’s petition for a writ of mandamus and ordered PERS to produce a report for the newspaper containing the requested information while excluding home addresses and Social Security numbers.

Parraguirre wrote that the “court begins its analysis of claims of confidentiality under the Act with a presumption in favor of disclosure. … The state entity bears the burden of overcoming this presumption of openness by proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the requested records are confidential.”

The court found the requested information is indeed a public record and the lower court was correct in “ordering PERS to provide the requested information to the extent that it is maintained in a medium separate from individuals’ files.”

But here’s the rub.

An attorney for PERS said during oral arguments before the court that the data on retirees is kept only in individual files, which are confidential by state law.

The court opinion vacated the part of the lower court ruling that required PERS to create a customized report for the newspaper.

The Reno paper and the public in general has a right to know who the pensioners are and how much they are being paid, but has no means of accessing that information.

The public records are commingled with private records and PERS doesn’t have to separate the two.

Having a right to something, without means of exercising that right, is a farce.

7 comments on “Nevada Supreme Court ruling ties headline writers in a knot

  1. Milty says:

    “Having a right to something, without means of exercising that right, is a farce.”

    Kind of like telling people that if they like their current health insurance policy, they can keep it, then telling the insurance companies that they can no longer legally offer those policies.

  2. And then telling the insurance companies they can offer it … the next six weeks.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I guess that’s what lawyers mean when they accuse the Supreme Court of “splitting the baby.” When there’s a right side and a wrong side, and you give something to each, justice has not been served.

  4. Vernon Clayson says:

    Who knew there was a Nevada supreme court? I have to look them up, I bet they are pissed that someone outed them.

  5. Milty says:

    The Nevada Supreme Court has been laying low since their infamous Guinn v Legislature decision in 2003. Within two election cycles, all but one justice who participated in that decision was either turned out of office by the voters or chose to retire before the electoral lynch mob caught up with them.

    It’s good that we have an elected judiciary. If we had an appointed judiciary like Sandra Day O’Connor and George Soros want us to have, we’d be experiencing a Guinn v Legislature type of decision every month.

    Of course, I remember Judge Halvorson in Las Vegas, so an elected judiciary isn’t foolproof either.

  6. Nothing is foolproof, the fools always find a way.

  7. […] the Reno Gazette-Journal newspaper sued under the public records law in 2013 and won in the Nevada Supreme Court, this information was disclosed for 2013 and 2014 and […]

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