Mo. Supreme Court Sides Against State In Open Records Case

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Public governmental bodies in Missouri cannot charge fees for the time attorneys spend redacting documents prior to their release to the public, the state Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the court ruling noted that the Missouri Sunshine Law allows officials to charge requestors for “research” and “staff” time, but not attorney review.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Mike Parson said the office was still reviewing the decision. A spokesman for Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt declined comment. Parson and Schmitt are both Republicans.

In 2018, Parson's office charged Elad Gross, a Democrat who ran for attorney general last year, $3,618 for a cache of records on former Gov. Eric Greitens, a Republican. The bill cited more than 90 hours of time for “research/processing” at $40 per hour.

The state Supreme Court, in a 6-0 decision, vacated an earlier ruling by the Cole County Circuit Court and sent it back.

Other state agencies have also charged for legal review time. Transparency advocates argued there was no authorization for the charges under the Sunshine Law.