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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Self-critical privilege not available to public entities in New York State objecting to the release of certain information


Self-critical privilege not available to public entities in New York State objecting to the release of certain information
Uniformed Fire Officers Assn., Local 854 v City of New York, 2012 NY Slip Op 07899, Appellate Division, First Department

Supreme Court denied the City of New York’s motion to quash a judicial subpoena obtained by the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, Local 854, requiring the City to supply it with copies of drafts of a public safety consultant's report recommending a change affecting the City’s 911 call system.

The Appellate Division sustained the Supreme Court’s ruling, holding that the City failed to show that the public interest would be harmed by the disclosure of drafts of the consultant's report to the Local.

The court explained that the City’s claim of protection under the so-called "self-critical" privilege* was misplaced as “This privilege has never been recognized under New York law.”

Further, the Appellate Division observed that the City had not demonstrated that there were "exceptional and compelling circumstances" that might justify the judicial creation of a new privilege

In the words of the court, “Absent sensitive subject matter or exposure of review participants to liability, the City's contention that the disclosure of the drafts would have a chilling effect on the internal discussions of those engaged in reviewing technical projects such as this is speculative.”

In contrast, said the court, Local 854 had shown a need for the drafts for the purpose of  preparing its case before the City’s Collective Bargaining Board.

* The self-critical analysis privilege, if available, would protect an entity’s self-evaluative materials from disclosure when it is shown that the public interest in preserving the internal evaluations of the organization outweighs an interested party's right to the information.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2012/2012_07899.htm

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