Roth v. Brostoff
On July 10, 2017, WILL Research Fellow Collin Roth made a record request to State Representative Jonathan Brostoff (D-Milwaukee) for emails relating to occupational licensing reform, specifically asking for the emails in electronic format. Instead, Brostoff printed off thousands of pages of documents and sent Roth an invoice for $3,239.76. WILL attorneys wrote back pointing out that the law requires custodians to provide electronic records when requested and does not allow charging for paper copies of electronic files, but Brostoff would not relent.
In a very similar case, on January 22, 2018, a Dane County Circuit Court judge ruled that State Rep. Scott Krug (R-Nekoosa) needed to provide electronic files when requested. When informed of this case, Rep. Brostoff still refused to comply.
Legally, custodians are required to provide electronic records when requested. The law explicitly defines records to include electronic files, and a printout of the text of an email doesn’t reproduce everything in the actual electronic file. Just like a transcript captures only one facet of a video recording, a printout is no substitute for an original email file. The law also limits custodians to charging necessary copying costs, and if files can be transmitted electronically, printing them is not necessary.
WILL sued in order to compel Brostoff to comply with the law. Before even filing an answer, the Representative agreed to settle the case by turning over the records in electronic format and paying our costs and attorney fees.