RENO NEWSPAPERS v. HALEY
234 P.3d 922 (2010)
Supreme Court of Nevada.
July 1, 2010.
3. Any exemption, exception or balancing of interests which limits or restricts access to public books and records by members of the public must be construed narrowly.
Given this unmistakable declaration of purpose, we cannot credit Haley's argument that the reference to "permits issued or applied for" in subsection 3 broadens the grant of confidentiality in subsection 1 from "applications" to permits. If the Legislature had intended post-application information about a permit's status to be confidential, it could and would have stated that, but it did not.
Despite Haley's argument that the identity of a permittee is confidential because it is the same name as an applicant, which is confidential, the narrow construction of confidentiality required by the Act and the Legislature's distinction between an applicant and a permittee, does not extend a statutory grant of confidentiality for an applicant to a permittee. The status of an applicant changes to that of a permittee when the permit issues as demonstrated by the concealed firearms statutory scheme and the plain omission of post-permit records from confidentiality in NRS 202.3662.
According to the Act's rules of construction requiring a narrow interpretation of any exception to openness and the Legislature's failure to explicitly grant confidentiality to a permittee, we must conclude that the name of a permittee and post-permit records of investigation, suspension, or revocation of a concealed firearms permit are not explicitly contained within the scope of the confidentiality exception of NRS 202.3662(1).
Balancing of interests—general policy in favor of open government against privacy or law enforcement policy justifications for nondisclosure
In addition to statutory exceptions, the Nevada Public Records Act acknowledges that confidentiality may be granted through a balancing of interests. Prior to the amendment of the Act, this court routinely employed a balancing test when a statute failed to unambiguously declare certain documents to be confidential. Donrey of Nevada v. Bradshaw, 106 Nev. 630, 635-36, 798 P.2d 144, 147-48 (1990). This balancing test equally weighed the general policy in favor of open government against privacy or law enforcement policy justifications for nondisclosure. See id. However, in light of the Legislature's declaration of the rules of construction of the Act—requiring the purpose of the Act to be construed liberally and any restriction to government documents to be construed narrowly—the balancing test under Bradshaw now requires a narrower interpretation of private or government interests promoting confidentiality or nondisclosure to be weighed against the liberal policy for an open and accessible government. See NRS 239.001. We emphasize that the balancing test must be employed in accordance with the underlying policies and rules of construction required by the Nevada Public Records Act. See id. We have previously concluded that, by enacting the Act, the Legislature has clearly evidenced its intent to promote principles
of democracy by ensuring an open government. NRS 239.001; NRS 239.010; DR Partners, 116 Nev. at 621, 6 P.3d at 468. Therefore, the Act ensures that the government is held accountable for its actions by preventing secrecy. DR Partners, 116 Nev. at 621, 6 P.3d at 468.