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Sukola denies Fisher's claims in email dispute

By Jacob Nakamura

Judge Anita Sukola threw a carton of eggs at attorney Tom Fisher's face today, figuratively speaking of course.

In a ruling on a case brought by Mr. Fisher against seaport general manager Rory Respicio, Ms. Sukola refused Mr. Fisher's request for the court to charge Mr. Respicio $1,000 on Fisher's allegation that Respicio failed to disclose public documents to Fisher.

The issue began on July 1, 2020, when Mr. Fisher sent a request for documents via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The FOIA requires the disclosure of public information contained on existing documents within four working days of the request. In this case, the fourth working day fell on July 8.

According to the record, including evidence from the seaport and an affidavit from the sender of the requested documents, Mr. Respicio did comply with the FOIA from Mr. Fisher, when his office replied to Mr. Fisher's email request with the digital copies of the requested documents.

Mr. Respicio previously has stated he happily disclosed the requested documents.

Mr. Fisher alleged he never received the documents, so he sued Mr. Respicio for violating the FOIA. At first he contended the seaport never delivered the documents to him. When confronted in open court with evidence that Mr. Respicio emailed the documents to him, he alleged he never received the email.

The Attorney General's Office then produced evidence that the culprit may actually have been Mr. Fisher's email system. The AGO produced evidence of a bounce back report from another email their office tried to send to Mr. Fisher. The message indicated Mr. Fisher's email account was full.

“We have said from the beginning that we fully complied with Mr. Fisher’s FOIA request and we substantiated our compliance through documents and declarations,” Mr. Respicio said. “Even the judge acknowledged that it appears that the email system being utilized by Mr. Fisher’s law firm was not working properly.”

Ms. Sukola ruled that there is not a preponderance of evidence that Mr. Respicio willfully denied Mr. Fisher his rights under the FOIA. She also noted that Mr. Fisher admitted to failing to visit the seaport even once to inspect the records he wanted, or to make copies of such records.

She denied his claim to $1,000 from Mr. Respicio, and left the ruling with these words:

"The Court encourages the parties to communicate with one another in order to resolve outstanding disputes, if any still remain, as to Petitioner's Sunshine Act requests."

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