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Hollis v. Fayetteville School District No. 1 of Washington County

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

March 2, 2016

TIMOTHY HOLLIS, APPELLANT
v.
FAYETTEVILLE SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 1 OF WASHINGTON COUNTY, ARKANSAS; TIM HUDSON; JIM HALSELL; BRYN BAGWELL; JUSTIN EICHMANN; TRACI FARRAH; SUSAN HEIL; STEVE PERCIVAL; VICKI THOMAS; and STEVE JACOBY, APPELLEES

          APPEAL FROM THE WASHINGTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. NO. CV-13-956-7. HONORABLE DOUG MARTIN, JUDGE.

         For Appellant: BRYCE GARRETT CRAWFORD.

         For Appellee: R CHRISTOPHER LAWSON.

         RAYMOND R. ABRAMSON, Judge. HARRISON and GLOVER, JJ., agree.

          OPINION

Page 281

          RAYMOND R. ABRAMSON, Judge

         This case is a companion to Hollis v. Fayetteville School District, 2016 Ark.App. 137 ( Hollis III ), also decided today. These two appeals arise out of appellant Timothy Hollis's Freedom of Information Act (the FOIA) requests made to appellee Fayetteville School District (collectively with its superintendent and individual board members, the district). In this case, the circuit court found that Hollis's FOIA requests were not specific enough to allow the district to locate the requested records with reasonable effort. As a result of this finding, the circuit court granted the district's renewed motion for a protective order. This appeal challenges both rulings. We hold that the circuit court lacked jurisdiction when it granted the motion for a protective order. Accordingly, we reverse and dismiss.

         I. Background and Procedural History

         Hollis's employment at Fayetteville High School was terminated by the board in February 2013. He sought judicial review of the termination pursuant to the Arkansas Teacher Fair Dismissal Act (TFDA). The termination was upheld by the circuit court, and we affirmed.[1] Hollis v. Fayetteville Sch. Dist., 2015 Ark.App. 544, 473 S.W.3d 45 ( Hollis I ).

         On August 22, 2014, after the circuit court had upheld his termination and the record had been filed with this court, Hollis propounded some seventeen FOIA requests to the district. At the time, Hollis was a candidate for a position on the school board. Specifically, the three requests at issue are as follows:

10. Copies of all emails and other communications between the attorneys for Fayetteville Public Schools and the financial office, financial officers, treasurer or any similar department or employee during the previous one (1) year.
11. Copies of all emails and other communications between the human resources department for Fayetteville Public Schools and the financial office, financial officers, treasurer or any similar department or employee during the previous one (1) year.
12. Copies of all emails and other communications between Vicki Thomas [the district's former superintendent] and the financial office, financial officers, treasurer or any similar department or employee during the previous one (1) year.

         On September 4, 2014, the district responded to some of the requests, but also noted it was renewing a request for a protective order with respect to requests numbers 10, 11, and 12 that it had filed in Judge Martin's court. That same day, the district filed a renewed motion for a protective order under the same docket number as the termination case. The district argued that these specific requests were overbroad and unduly burdensome, particularly with respect to the request for all emails by or to " the financial office, financial officers, treasurer or any similar department or employee." The district also argued that the request for all emails would require the production of hundreds of thousands of emails requiring individual review by counsel to determine if any such emails contained information that would constitute an unwarranted invasion ...


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