ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IS NOT USED, IN WHOLE OR IN PART, IN THE SUMMARIES OF JUDICIAL AND QUASI-JUDICIAL DECISIONS PREPARED BY NYPPL PERSONNEL

March 02, 2023

Making public records available for public inspection and copying

In this CPLR Article 78, the Suffern Education Association sought to compel "complete disclosure" of certain "redacted documents" supplied to it by the Suffern Central School District pursuant to the Association's Freedom of Information Law [FOIL] request. The  School District had responded to the Association's FOIL request, in part, by including copies of several emails that had been "heavily redacted".

Supreme Court, after its in camera review of the redacted emails, directed the School District to provide the Association with unredacted documents. Supreme Court also awarded the Association its attorneys' fees and other costs associated with its Article 78 action. School District appealed the Supreme Court's rulings.

The Appellate Division affirmed the Supreme Court's decisions, explaining:

1. "FOIL requires that public agencies 'make available for public inspection and copying all records' except where they fall within one of the statute's enumerated exemptions." Courts "typically construe exemptions narrowly, and an agency has the burden of demonstrating that an exemption applies 'by articulating a particularized and specific justification for denying access'"; and

2. Public Officers Law §87(2)(g)(i) provides that an agency may deny access to records or portions thereof that "are inter-agency or intra-agency materials which are not," among other things, "statistical or factual tabulations or data."**

The Appellate Division, after its in camera inspection of the email communications at issue, concluded that the Supreme Court had properly determined that the redacted information constitutes factual data that is not exempt from disclosure and that the School District did not meet its burden to show that the redacted portions of the emails at issue were, in fact, exempt from disclosure.

Further, opined the Appellate Division, "Supreme Court providently exercised its discretion in awarding the [Association] attorneys' fees and other costs," noting that the Legislature had provided for the assessment of an attorney's fee and other litigation costs in FOIL proceedings "[in] order to create a clear deterrent to unreasonable delays and denials of access and thereby encourage every unit of government to make a good faith effort to comply with the requirements of FOIL."

Sustaining the Supreme Courts award of attorney's fee and other litigation costs, the Appellate Division observed that "it is undisputed that the [School District], in effect, denied the [Association] access to nonexempt documents, as no [such] documents were provided [to the Association] by the [School District's] self-imposed response date."

* Public Officers Law Article 6.

** The Appellate Division described factual data "as objective information, rather than 'opinions, ideas, or advice exchanged as part of the consultative or deliberative process of government decision making.'"

Click HERE to access the Appellate Division's decision posted on the Internet.

CAUTION

Subsequent court and administrative rulings, or changes to laws, rules and regulations may have modified or clarified or vacated or reversed the decisions summarized here. Accordingly, these summaries should be Shepardized® or otherwise checked to make certain that the most recent information is being considered by the reader.
THE MATERIAL ON THIS WEBSITE IS FOR INFORMATION ONLY. AGAIN, CHANGES IN LAWS, RULES, REGULATIONS AND NEW COURT AND ADMINISTRATIVE DECISIONS MAY AFFECT THE ACCURACY OF THE INFORMATION PROVIDED IN THIS LAWBLOG. THE MATERIAL PRESENTED IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE AND THE USE OF ANY MATERIAL POSTED ON THIS WEBSITE, OR CORRESPONDENCE CONCERNING SUCH MATERIAL, DOES NOT CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP.
New York Public Personnel Law Blog Editor Harvey Randall served as Principal Attorney, New York State Department of Civil Service; Director of Personnel, SUNY Central Administration; Director of Research, Governor’s Office of Employee Relations; and Staff Judge Advocate General, New York Guard. Consistent with the Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations, the material posted to this blog is presented with the understanding that neither the publisher nor NYPPL and, or, its staff and contributors are providing legal advice to the reader and in the event legal or other expert assistance is needed, the reader is urged to seek such advice from a knowledgeable professional.
New York Public Personnel Law. Email: publications@nycap.rr.com