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AAC F A M I L Y & F R I E N D S


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b. Attorney Client Exception Tis legislative session, Sen. Bart Hester proposed a bill that would have exempted attorney-client communications and attorney work product from FOIA requests (Senate Bill 373). In the course of an attorney-client relationship, com- munications between an attorney and his or her client are kept confidential to facilitate openness, honesty and trust. When an attorney prepares documents, especially when he or she jots down strategies and thought processes, it is considered his or her work product. In a typical lawsuit between private parties, attorney-client communications and attorney work product are not subject to discovery, or disclosure to the other party in the lawsuit. Under Arkan- sas’ FOIA laws, however, attorney-client communications and attorney work product are available to the public. Tat means that in a lawsuit in which one or more of the parties is a public entity or a public official, the opposing party, who would not otherwise be able to have access to such privileged information, is able to obtain attorney-client documents and communications by filing an FOIA request. Tis puts public entities and public officials at a disadvan- tage when they face private parties in court. Ultimately, the bill failed in the Senate. However, strong support for such exemptions to prevent the abuse of FOIA will certainly be


discussed in upcoming legislative sessions. Looking Forward


Te biggest gain for Arkansas counties in regard to public


records, publication requirements and responsibilities un- der FOIA was the passage of Act 514, saving gas and oil producing counties thousands of dollars per year and pro- viding for online publication of delinquent minerals. Sup- porters have high hopes of the option for online notice pub- lication to continue to gain traction in legislative sessions to come. Additionally, uniform clarity of other types of no- tice publication would prove useful. While bills to provide much-needed relief for county officials working to comply with FOIA requests failed in this session, these ideas will likely continue to gain momentum in the future. Simple al- terations, such as the extension of the three day time frame for officials, or the exclusion of attorney-client privileged communication and work product, would raise the bar in pursuing the mission of government transparency. Finally, as reflected by the passage of House Bill 1823, now Act 960 (sponsored by Rep. Charlie Collins), electronic trends are the way of the future — counties will see more and more electronic publishing requirements and should embrace the tools of technology in producing inclusive and effective governance of Arkansas counties.


COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2017


17


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