MONTPELIER — Vermont Supreme Court justices peppered both sides with questions at a hearing Wednesday in a public records case with far-reaching consequences for government transparency.

The central issue is the application of the state’s public records law to private email and text message accounts belonging to public officials.

A lower court ruled earlier this year that private accounts are protected from public scrutiny.

That ruling creates a “gigantic” loophole in the law, according to Bob Hemley, a First Amendment lawyer with Gravel and Shea. Helmley represents a group of media outlets and transparency advocates, including VTDigger, that filed an amicus brief in the case.

The case, Toensing v. the Attorney General of Vermont, stems from a request by Brady Toensing, the Vermont GOP vice chair, for public records related to campaign finance and pay-to-play allegations against former Attorney General William Sorrell.

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