May 23, 2019

PHOENIX—The American Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona filed a lawsuit today against Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery for violating Arizona’s public records law.

The organizations are suing on behalf of the ACLU of Arizona and Sean Holstege, an investigative reporter who’s been waiting more than seven months to receive basic information about how the largest prosecutor’s office in Arizona functions.

“Democracy dies behind closed doors, and Mr. Montgomery has slammed the door in his constituents’ faces,” said ACLU attorney Somil Trivedi.

Holstege requested information about the Maricopa County Attorney’s policies, procedures, employees, and budget, as well as data on who they are prosecuting and how the office chooses to handle these criminal cases. The ACLU of Arizona hired Holstege to gather this information from several prosecutors’ offices. Other Arizona prosecutors have fulfilled their public records obligations.

Due to the large volume of the request, Holstege offered to receive information on a rolling basis, as it became available. In response, Montgomery’s office delayed, stonewalled, and claimed that certain documents couldn’t be provided, but gave no reason why.

To date, only one document was released: a staff roster for a single year out of a range of years requested.

“Arizona law is on our side. The state’s courts have held that far shorter delays than this one—now spanning over 210 days—violate the public records law,” said ACLU of Arizona attorney Jared Keenan. “Montgomery has a long track record of avoiding transparency. His office must stop using secrecy to exacerbate mass incarceration.” 

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