This week, in archival news, I found an article in the Associated Press about a recent trend wherein local and state governments sue individuals seeking public information. Examples provided in the first paragraph included an Oregon parent who “wanted details about school employees being paid to stay home. A retired educator sought data about student performance in Louisiana. And college journalists in Kentucky requested documents about investigations of employees accused of sexual assault.” In these cases, rather than having their requests for these materials approved or denied, the agencies they petitioned responded through legal action.
These cases rarely seek damages from the defendants (those who requested the information), and according to the Associated Press, the lawsuits ask judges to “rule that the records being sought do not have to be divulged.” The government officials engaging with this trend state that they believe it best to have judges determine whether records should be released in cases where the legal obligations for said records are ambiguous. Although this seems a valid concern on the surface, I see no reason why such officials could not instead confer with legal counsel privately instead of dragging their petitioners through a court room.
One of the points we discussed in class this week was how archivists are public servants who seek to make the information in their repositories as accessible as possible within legal restrictions. It is the archivists goal to help researchers or users find the materials they need and encourage them towards records they think might serve them better. In fact, the Society of American Archivists’ (SAA) website states within its purpose that, “Archivists provide important benefits and services, such as: identifying and preserving essential parts of the cultural heritage of society; organizing and maintaining the documentary record of institutions, groups, and individuals; assisting in the process of remembering the past through authentic and reliable primary sources; and serving a broad range of people who seek to locate and use valuable evidence and information.” The actions described in this article strike me as this tenet of SAA values and ethics’ antithesis. Although the SAA’s Core Values Statement and Code of Ethics are not enforced, to complicate a researcher’s quest for information through something as serious as legal recourse not only refuses that researcher their information, it also discourages them, and others who might wish to conduct research in such governmental repositories, from doing so. This defies the SAA’s Core Values Statement and Code of Ethics, and strikes me as the behavior I would expect from an authoritarian regime, not a representative democracy.
 Ryan J. Foley, “Governments turn tables by suing public records requesters,” Associated Press, September 17, 2017, https://apnews.com/7f6ed0b1bda047339f22789a10f64ac4.
 Society of American Archivists, “SAA Core Values Statement and Code of Ethics,” Society of American Archivists, https://www2.archivists.org/statements/saa-core-values-statement-and-code-of-ethics.