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Freedom of Information Law

Freedom of Information Law Supreme Court Opinion

   by Booth, George

 http://jud.ct.gov/lawlib/LawLibNews/Posts/Post.aspx?Id=93

SC19586 - Harrington v. Freedom of Information Commission (Freedom of information; "Clients call upon attorneys to provide advice on a range of matters, some that may be purely legal, some that may be purely nonlegal, and others where the line between legal and nonlegal advice is more nuanced. This case provides an opportunity to address the circumstances under which communications relating to both nonlegal and legal advice may be covered by the attorney-client privilege.

The plaintiff, Michael C. Harrington, appeals from the trial court's judgment dismissing his appeal from the decision of the Freedom of Information Commission, which concluded that e-mails that the plaintiff sought from the defendant Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority fall within the exemption from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (act) for communications subject to the attorney-client privilege. See General Statutes § 1-210 (b) (10). We conclude that the commission failed to apply the proper standard for assessing the communications at issue, which include communications that the commission characterized as containing a mix of business and legal advice. Therefore, the case must be remanded to the commission for further proceedings.")


Freedom of Information Supreme and Appellate Court Opinions

   by Mazur, Catherine

 http://jud.ct.gov/lawlib/LawLibNews/Posts/Post.aspx?Id=184

July 2009 - June 2016 (reverse chronological order)

SC19593, SC19594 - People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Inc. v. Freedom of Information Commission ("In these appeals, we must determine the standard of review that applies to a determination that public records are exempt from the disclosure provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (act), General Statutes § 1-200 et seq., pursuant to General Statutes § 1-210 (b) (19), because there are reasonable grounds to believe that their disclosure may result in a safety risk. The plaintiff, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Inc., submitted a freedom of information request to the defendant University of Connecticut Health Center (Health Center), requesting copies of all correspondence between the Health Center and the National Institutes of Health regarding potential noncompliance with federal animal welfare guidelines. The Health Center produced the requested documents but redacted the names of the individuals who had violated federal protocols and grant identification numbers that would make it possible to identify those individuals. The plaintiff then filed a complaint against the Health Center with the named defendant, the Freedom of Information Commission (commission). While the complaint was pending, the Health Center requested a safety risk determination from the defendant Commissioner of the Department of Administrative Services (department) pursuant to § 1-210 (b) (19) and (d). The department determined that there were 'reasonable grounds to believe that [the] disclosure of this [redacted] material may result in a safety risk to persons or property' and directed the Health Center to withhold the redacted information. The commission upheld this determination. The plaintiff appealed from the commission's decision to the trial court, which sustained the appeal and ordered the Health Center to disclose the redacted information. The Health Center and the department then brought separate appeals, claiming that the trial court incorrectly determined that the commission had applied the wrong standard of review when it sustained the plaintiff's appeal. We agree with the Health Center and the department that the commission applied the proper standard of review. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the trial court. We further conclude that the case should be remanded to that court so that it may decide whether the commission, upon application of the proper standard of review, properly upheld the determination of the department. ")

AC36821 - Burton v. Freedom of Information Commission ("The sole issue in this appeal is whether the plaintiff...had standing to appeal from a decision of the Freedom of Information Commission (commission) declining to impose a civil penalty against the defendant.... We conclude that the plaintiff lacked standing and affirm the trial court's judgment dismissing the appeal.")

SC19452 - Lieberman v. Aronow ("The primary issue in this appeal is whether two reports (reports) relating to the resolution of a formal grievance alleging misconduct against a state university faculty member fall within the exemption from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (act), General Statutes § 1-200 et seq., created by General Statutes § 10a-154a. The plaintiff, Jay R. Lieberman, the chairman of the orthopedic surgery department at the defendant University of Connecticut Health Center (health center), appeals from the judgment of the trial court dismissing his appeal from the final decision of the defendant Freedom of Information Commission (commission). The commission concluded that the reports do not constitute a 'record of the performance and evaluation' within the meaning of § 10a-154a and that, therefore, the health center was required to disclose the reports pursuant to a request by the defendant Michael Aronow, an orthopedic surgeon at the health center.


On appeal, Lieberman claims, inter alia, that the trial court improperly interpreted the language and legislative history of § 10a-154a. Aronow and the commission contend that the trial court properly concluded that the reports do not constitute a 'record of the performance and evaluation' of a faculty member under § 10a-154a. We agree with Aronow and the commission and conclude that the reports at issue in this appeal do not fall within the exemption from disclosure contained in § 10a-154a. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court dismissing Lieberman's appeal from the commission's decision.")

SC19371 - Freedom of Information Officer, Dept. of Mental Health & Addiction Services v. Freedom of Information Commission ("The present case arises from the ruling of the named defendant...that the defendant Ron Robillard was entitled to the disclosure of documents in the possession of the plaintiffs, the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (department) and its Freedom of Information Officer (information officer), under the Freedom of Information Act (act), General Statutes § 1-200 et seq. The commission appeals from the judgment of the trial court, claiming, inter alia, that the plaintiffs lacked standing to appeal to the trial court from the commission's decision. The plaintiffs cross appealed from the judgment of the trial court, claiming, inter alia, that the trial court improperly rejected the plaintiffs' claim that the documents were medical records related to the diagnosis and treatment of a patient and were, thus, psychiatric records exempt from disclosure pursuant to General Statutes § 52-146e. We conclude that the plaintiffs had standing to appeal the decision of the commission, and further agree with the plaintiffs that the documents at issue are exempt from disclosure under § 52-146e. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand the case to that court with direction to sustain the plaintiffs' appeal.")

  • SC19371 Concurrence - Freedom of Information Officer, Dept. of Mental Health & Addiction Services v. Freedom of Information Commission

AC36436 - Peruta v. Freedom of Information Commission (Administrative appeal; appeal from decision of defendant Freedom of Information Commission dismissing complaint; "The plaintiffs, Edward A. Peruta and American News and Information Services, Inc., appeal from the judgment of the trial court affirming the decision of the defendant Freedom of Information Commission (commission) that dismissed the plaintiffs' complaint. The plaintiffs had filed a complaint with the commission claiming that the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (department) improperly denied them access to information contained in pending applications for temporary state permits to carry pistols or revolvers. On appeal, the plaintiffs claim that the court erroneously construed General Statutes § 29-28 when it concluded that the names and addresses of those applicants were exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (act), General Statutes § 1-200 et seq. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.")

AC36114 - Emerick v. Freedom of Information Commission ("The plaintiff...appeals
from the judgment of the trial court dismissing his administrative appeal from the decision of the defendant Freedom of Information Commission (commission). The plaintiff had filed a complaint with the commission claiming that the defendant Department of Public Health (department) improperly had denied him access to certain public records. We conclude that the court properly determined that the plaintiff’s appeal of the commission’s decision was untimely and, accordingly, properly dismissed the appeal. ")

SC19263, SC19264 Planning & Zoning Commission v. Freedom of Information Commission ("Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act (act) allows public agencies to convene executive sessions, as an exception to the general rule that meetings must be open to the public, to discuss ‘strategy and negotiations with respect to pending claims or pending litigation to which the public agency...is a party....’ General Statutes § 1-200 (6) (B). The dispositive issue in these appeals is whether an executive session held by the named plaintiff...fell within the purview of the act’s ‘pending claims or pending litigation’ exception. The named defendant...initially determined that the zoning commission’s executive session was unlawful under the act. The zoning commission appealed from the FOIC’s decision to the trial court, which reversed the FOIC’s decision, concluding that the zoning commission’s executive session was permissible under the act’s pending claims or pending litigation exception. The FOIC now appeals from the judgment of the trial court, claiming that the executive session violated the act. The defendant...and its principal officers...who were seeking approval of a zoning permit extension by the zoning commission when it convened the executive session in question, also appeal from the judgment of the trial court, claiming that the executive session was unlawful. We conclude that the zoning commission’s executive session was not justified under the pending claims or pending litigation exception of the act and, accordingly, reverse the judgment of the trial court.")

SC18966 - Gould v. Freedom of Information Commission ("The plaintiff...a member of the arbitration panel that is the subject of the present case, appeals from the judgment of the trial court dismissing his appeal from the final decision of the defendant Freedom of Information Commission (commission). In its decision, the commission concluded that: (1) the arbitration panel is a committee of the Department of Education (department); and (2) the evidentiary portion of an arbitration hearing under the Teacher Negotiation Act (TNA); see General Statutes § 10-153a et seq.; is subject to the open meetings provision of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA); see General Statutes § 1-225 (a); and ordered the plaintiff, along with the two other members of the three member arbitration panel, to create a transcript of the stenographic record from an arbitration hearing dated January 30, 2010, and to provide that transcript to the defendant Waterbury Republican-American (newspaper) and the defendant Jim Moore, a journalist with the newspaper, who had been excluded from the arbitration proceedings.


"The plaintiff advances two arguments in support of his contention that the trial court improperly dismissed his appeal. First, the plaintiff claims that, because a TNA arbitration panel is not a 'committee of' the department, it does not constitute a '"[p]ublic agency"' pursuant to General Statutes (Supp. 2014) § 1-200 (1) (A). Second, the plaintiff claims that, because the presentation of evidence and testimony at a TNA arbitration hearing constitutes 'strategy or negotiations with respect to collective bargaining,' the evidentiary portion of the hearings does not constitute a '"[m]eeting"' pursuant to § 1-200 (2). See footnote 4 of this opinion. We agree with the plaintiff's first claim and, therefore, reverse the judgment of the trial court.")

SC19046 - Commissioner of Public Health v. Freedom of Information Commission(Administrative agencies; Freedom of Information Act (§ 1-200 et seq.); "Congress created the National Practitioner Data Bank (Practitioner Data Bank) and the Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank (Healthcare Data Bank) as national clearinghouses for, inter alia, information from health care entities and licensing boards regarding adverse actions taken against physicians and other licensed health care practitioners. The question we must answer in the present case is whether records received from these federal data banks by a state agency authorized to request this confidential information can be subject to disclosure under our Freedom of Information Act (act), General Statutes § 1-200 et seq.


The named defendant, the Freedom of Information Commission (commission), concluded that federal law permits disclosure of Practitioner Data Bank records if they are subject to disclosure under state law such as the act, but does not permit disclosure of Healthcare Data Bank records. The trial court dismissed the appeal of the plaintiff, the Commissioner of Public Health (department), from the commission's decision ordering the department to disclose Practitioner Data Bank records to a local newspaper, the defendant Greenwich Time (newspaper). The trial court also dismissed the newspaper's appeal from the commission's decision insofar as it had denied the newspaper's request for an order to disclose the Healthcare Data Bank records. The department appealed and the newspaper cross appealed from the trial court's judgment. We conclude that a public agency may not disclose to an unauthorized person or entity any records received from either the Practitioner Data Bank or the Healthcare Data Bank, although the agency may disclose to a member of the public information originating from the agency's own files if disclosure is otherwise required under the act. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court's judgment in part.")

SC19055 - Chairperson, Connecticut Medical Examining Board v. Freedom of Information Commission ("This is an appeal by the plaintiffs...from the judgment of the trial court dismissing the plaintiffs' appeal from a final decision of the named defendant...in favor of the complainants, Attorney Michael K. Courtney and the Office of the Chief Public Defender. The trial court concluded that the commission properly had found that an executive session convened by the board on February 17, 2009, was not permissible under the Freedom of Information Act (act), General Statutes § 1-200 et seq. The board convened the executive session to obtain legal advice about issues raised in a letter from the complainants dated February 13, 2009 (letter), regarding their request for a declaratory ruling. The plaintiffs claim that the board was permitted to convene in executive session under the act because the letter demanded legal relief and, therefore, constituted notice of a pending claim as defined by § 1-200 (8). In addition, the plaintiffs claim that the executive session was permitted under the act because it involved discussions of strategy and negotiations as defined by § 1-200 (6) (B). The commission responds that the letter did not constitute notice of a pending claim but, rather, that the complainants merely noted a potential conflict of interest and suggested a course of action. We agree with the commission and, accordingly, affirm the judgment of the trial court.")

AC32381 - Commissioner of Public Safety v. Freedom of Information Commission ("The plaintiff...appeals from the judgments of the trial court dismissing his appeals and concluding that the defendant...properly determined that the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act (act), General Statutes § 1-200 et seq., required the disclosure of printouts or 'rap sheets' obtained by the Department of Public Safety (department) from the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) computerized database, which is maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The commissioner claims that the NCIC printouts were not subject to public disclosure under the act. We reverse, in part, the judgments of the trial court.")

SC18724 - Pictometry International Corp. v. Freedom of Information Commission
SC18725 - Department of Environmental Protection v. Freedom of Information Commission("The primary issue to be resolved in these appeals is whether public records that are protected by federal copyright law fall within the 'otherwise provided by any federal law' exemption to the Freedom of Information Act (act), General Statutes § 1-200 et seq., set forth in General Statutes § 1-210 (a) (federal law exemption)....

"We conclude that, because the commission improperly ordered the DEP to provide copies of the images without first determining whether Whitaker wanted copies of the images stripped of the associated data, whether it was feasible for the DEP to provide such copies and whether doing so would pose a public safety risk, the matter must be remanded to the commission for further proceedings. We further conclude that, if the commission determines that Whitaker wants and is entitled to copies of the photographic images, the copying of the photographic images must be done in compliance with the provisions of the licensing agreement and federal copyright law, including payment by Whitaker of the $25 per image fee.")

SC18622, SC18623 - Commissioner of Correction v. Freedom of Information Commission, SC18624 - United States of America v. Freedom of Information Commission ("These appeals arise from the ruling of the named defendant...that the defendant Rashad El Badrawi was entitled, under the Freedom of Information Act (act), General Statutes § 1-200 et seq., to the disclosure of a document that the plaintiff...obtained from a file in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) computerized database, which is maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The commissioner and the intervenor...appealed from the commission's ruling to the trial court, claiming that the commission improperly had ordered disclosure of the document because, for among other reasons, disclosure was barred by a federal regulation, and, therefore, the document was exempt from the act in accordance with General Statutes § 1-210 (a). The trial court rendered judgments dismissing the appeals in part and sustaining them in part, and ordered that a redacted version of the document be disclosed to El Badrawi. The commissioner and the United States then filed these appeals.")

AC32246 - Commissioner of Public Safety v. Freedom of Information Commission ("The defendant...appeals from the judgment of the trial court sustaining the appeal of the plaintiff...from the decision of the commission. The court concluded that the commission erroneously had required the department of public safety (department) to release documents to the complainants....On appeal, the commission claims that the court erred by (1) concluding that the text of General Statutes § 1-215 does not plainly and unambiguously require disclosure of certain information at the time of the arrest; and (2) failing to defer to the commission's construction of General Statutes §§ 1-215 and 1-210 (b) (3), and thereby failing to follow the applicable scope of judicial review in an administrative appeal.")

AC32932 - Tompkins v. Freedom of Information Commission ("The issue presented in this appeal is whether the trial court properly dismissed the appeal of the plaintiff, Duane Tompkins, from the amended final decision of the named defendant, the freedom of information commission (commission), ordering the plaintiff's former employer, the town of Enfield police department (department), to disclose the plaintiff's redacted employment termination records to the defendants the Journal Inquirer and Alexander Wood and Jenna Carlesso, staff writers for the Journal Inquirer. The plaintiff claims that the trial court erred in sustaining the commission's order of disclosure over his objection that the subject records are exempt from disclosure under either General Statutes § 1-210 (b) (2) because their release would constitute an invasion of his personal privacy, or § 1-210 (b) (3) (G) because they contain uncorroborated allegations of criminal activity.")

AC33799 - Lucarelli v. Freedom of Information Commission ("The self-represented plaintiff, Lamberto Lucarelli, appeals from the judgment of nonsuit rendered against him in his appeal to the Superior Court from a final decision of the defendant, the freedom of information commission, and from the trial court's subsequent orders denying his motion to open the judgment of nonsuit, denying his motion to reargue the motion to open, finding his motion to disqualify the judge that rendered the judgment of nonsuit moot, and denying his second motion for reargument, clarification and disqualification. We construe the plaintiff's arguments on appeal as claiming that the court abused its discretion by rendering the judgment of nonsuit and by denying his postjudgment motions.")

AC33444 - Albright-Lazzari v. Freedom of Information Commission ("On appeal, the plaintiffs claim that the court improperly (1) determined that the commission’s dismissal of their complaint without a hearing was not a violation of their constitutional rights and (2) deferred to the commission’s conclusion that it lacked jurisdiction to determine the rights of access to records of the intervening defendant, the department of children and families (department) pertaining to child protection activities.")

AC33368 - Lantieri v. Administrator, Unemployment Compensation ("On appeal, the defendant claims that the trial court improperly found facts beyond those certified to it by the board and utilized those facts to improperly determine that the board’s decision that the plaintiff engaged in wilful misconduct was not supported by the evidence.")

AC33336 - Lucarelli v. Freedom of Information Commission ("The self-represented plaintiff, Lamberto Lucarelli, appeals from the judgment of the trial court dismissing his administrative appeal from the decision of the defendant freedom of information commission (commission) ordering the defendant Old Saybrook police department (department) to produce certain records. The plaintiff claims that the court erred in concluding that (1) the commission properly determined that the department was not required to transcribe or to tape voice mail messages pursuant to General Statutes § 1-213 (b) (3), (2) the commission's failure to rule on his request for subpoenas was not reversible error and (3) the commission properly declined to enforce the penalty provision of General Statutes § 1-240 (a).")

AC33167 - Germain v. Manchester ("The plaintiff... appeals from the judgment of the trial court dismissing his administrative appeal from the decision of the defendant, freedom of information commission (commission). On appeal, the plaintiff claims that the court improperly (1) interpreted General Statutes § 1-212 (g) to limit the permissible type of scanner that can be used to copy public documents to a scanner that is held in the hand and dragged across the page being copied, to the exclusion of any other battery operated scanner, (2) deferred to the commission's interpretation of § 1-212 (g) and (3) concluded that the commission's prior decision in Kreutzer v. Assistant Dean, Administration & Special Projects, Freedom of Information Commission, Docket No. FIC 2004-463 (September 28, 2005), was inapplicable.")

SC18772 - University of Connecticut v. Freedom of Information Commission ("This appeal concerns the issue of whether a public agency can create and maintain trade secrets that are exempt from disclosure under General Statutes § 1-210 (b) (5) (A) of the Freedom of Information Act (act), General Statutes § 1-200 et seq. The named defendant, the freedom of information commission (commission), appeals from the trial court's judgment sustaining the administrative appeal of the plaintiff, the University of Connecticut (university), from the commission's decision ordering the university to disclose databases identifying persons who had paid to attend, donated to, inquired about or participated in certain educational, cultural or athletic activities of institutions within the university. The commission contends that, in light of the public policy favoring disclosure of public records, the trial court improperly rejected the commission's determination that none of the databases at issue could be trade secrets because the university is not principally engaged in a trade")

SC18601 - Ethics Commission v. Freedom of Information Commission ("The plaintiff, the ethics commission of the town of Glastonbury, appeals from the trial court’s judgments dismissing the plaintiff’s consolidated appeals from four decisions of the named defendant, the freedom of information commission (commission). In each decision, the commission had ordered the plaintiff to make and to maintain, for a period of three years, audio recordings of the plaintiff’s executive sessions, or any other session closed to the public, after finding that the plaintiff had violated the open meetings provision of the Freedom of Information Act (act), General Statutes § 1-200 et seq., by convening in nonpublic sessions to discuss certain matters and further finding that the plaintiff had failed to comply with the commission’s orders to amend its minutes to reflect those discussions. The dispositive issue on appeal is whether the commission’s orders exceeded its remedial authority under the act.")

AC31780, AC31781 - Planning & Zoning Commission v. Freedom of Information Commission ("The defendant freedom of information commission (commission) appeals from the judgments of the trial court sustaining the administrative appeals of the plaintiff planning and zoning commission of the town of Pomfret from the final decisions of the commission. On appeal, the commission claims that the court erred in overturning its decisions because the court (1) addressed issues that were not before the commission, and (2) construed General Statutes §§ 1-210 (a) and 1- 212 (a) in a manner that (a) contradicted the statutes’ plain meaning, (b) contradicted the construction of the statutes by the commission, (c) failed to give deference to the commission’s construction of the statutes and (d) was inconsistent with the statutes’ underlying public policy interests.")

AC32409 - Commissioner of Correction v. Freedom of Information Commission ("The defendant David P. Taylor appeals from the judgments of the Superior Court sustaining the appeals of the plaintiffs, the commissioner of correction, Steven Petracca, Harry Soucy and AFSCME, Council 4, Local 387, from the decisions of the defendant freedom of information commission (commission) and prohibiting the disclosure of certain disciplinary records of department of correction (department) employees pursuant to General Statutes § 1-210 (c) and (b) (18) of the Freedom of Information Act (act), General Statutes § 1-200 et seq.")

SC18461 - Lash v. Freedom of Information Commission ("The named defendant, the freedom of information commission (commission), appeals from the judgment of the Appellate Court reversing the judgment of the trial court in favor of the commission. The commission claims that the Appellate Court improperly concluded that: (1) the plaintiffs, James A. Lash, first selectman of the town of Greenwich (town), and the town board of selectmen, sustained their burden of demonstrating that certain documents were exempt from disclosure because they were protected by attorney-client privilege; and (2) the commission abused its discretion in assessing a civil penalty against Lash.")

SC18489 - Dept. of Public Safety v. Freedom of Information Commission ("The principal issue in this appeal is whether the named defendant, the freedom of information commission (commission), properly ordered the plaintiff, the department of public safety (department), to disclose information contained in its sex offender registry because it was not subject to the provisions in General Statutes § 54-255 restricting the dissemination of registration information regarding certain offenders.")

Valvo v. Freedom of Information Commission - SC18283 ("The plaintiffs...filed a complaint with the named defendant,...after the defendant chief court administrator of the judicial branch of the state of Connecticut (chief court administrator), denied their request pursuant to the freedom of information act (act), General Statutes § 1-200 et seq., for copies of certain docket sheets...The plaintiffs then appealed from the judgment of the trial court claiming that, although the trial court properly determined that, under this court's decision in Clerk of the Superior Court v. Freedom of Information Commission, 278 Conn. 28, 37, 895 A.2d 743 (2006), the docket sheets were not administrative records subject to the act, that case was wrongly decided and this court should overrule it. ")

Board of Selectmen v. Freedom of Information Commission - SC18343 ("On appeal, the board contends that the trial court improperly: (1) determined that the emergency meeting provisions of §1-225 (d) were not unconstitutionally vague; (2) agreed with the commission's conclusion that the contested meeting had not been held under emergency circumstances; (3) concluded that the commission had not abused its discretion in declaring the contested board meeting null and void; and (4) relied on evidence outside the factual findings made by the commission and thereby substituted its own judgment for that of the commission.")

Director of Health Affairs Policy Planning v. Freedom of Information Commission - SC18286(Administrative appeal; "The dispositive issue in this appeal is whether certain records held by the plaintiff, the director of health affairs policy planning for the University of Connecticut Health Center, are exempt from disclosure under the freedom of information act (act), General Statutes § 1-200 et seq., pursuant to General Statutes § 19a-17b (d), which protects peer review proceedings from discovery and introduction into evidence in a civil action".)

AC30137 - Lash v. Freedom of Information Commission ("The plaintiffs James A. Lash, first selectman of the town of Greenwich, and the Greenwich board of selectment appeal from the judgment of the Superior Court dismissing their administrative appeal from the decision of the defendant freedom of information commission (commission) in favor of the defendant Stephen Whitaker. On appeal before this court, the plaintiffs claim that the Superior Court improperly dismissed the appeal because the commission erroneously (1) found that they violated General Statutes § 1-210 (a) by failing to provide prompt access to certain public records, (2) found that they failed to establish that two specific documents were exempt from disclosure under § 1-210 (b) (10) and (3) imposed a civil penalty of $100 against Lash pursuant to General Statutes § 1-206 (b) (2).")


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