FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Paul E. Stern, Rhonda Stearley and the Journal Inquirer,
against Docket #FIC 86-72
Speaker of the House of Representatives,
Respondent June 11, 1986
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on April 3, 1986, and on May 13, 1986, at which time the complainants and the respondent appeared and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.
After consideration of the entire record, the following facts are found:
1. The respondent is a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.
2. By letter dated March 7, 1986, the complainants requested a copy of a summary of data obtained by the respondent as a result of a survey of members of the Connecticut bar concerning the judges of the Superior Court.
3. By letter dated March 11, 1986, the respondent noted that he had released the summary of data pertaining to judges who were being considered for reappointment in 1986, but he refused to release the summary of data obtained on the judges who were not being considered for reappointment in 1986.
4. The respondent claimed that the records which he withheld were exempt from disclosure under 1-19(b)(1) and 1-19(c)(1), G.S.
5. The record sought by the complainant was a summary of a poll devised by the respondent to obtain information about the performance of judges who were to be considered for reappointment.
6. The record sought by the complainant was compiled to summarize a survey of opinions in 1986 by approximately 1,500 members of the Connecticut bar.
Docket #FIC 86-72 Page Two
7. The qualities of the individual judges evaluated included judicial integrity, demeanor, diligence, caseflow management, familiarity with current law, soundness of written rulings, and worthiness for retention.
8. The evaluations had been compiled in a numerical format for all judges and those with the least favorable ratings were reviewed by the respondent to determine which of them were up for reappointment in 1986.
9. Those who were up for reappointment in 1986 were subjected to further evaluation to determine whether they should be reappointed.
10. Section 1-19(b)(1), G.S., provides an exemption from disclosure for preliminary drafts or notes provided the public agency has determined that the public interest in withholding such documents clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure.
11. The respondent claims that the results of the poll which pertain to judges not up for reappointment in 1986 are preliminary notes within the meaning of 1-19(b)(1), G.S., because such results will not be used to evaluate those judges when the time arrives for them to be considered for reappointment.
12. It is found that the respondent failed to prove that the results of the lawyers' survey as tabulated was either preliminary, or a note, or a draft, because although the results of a similar poll in another year might differ, the 1986 survey was a completed document.
13. The respondent claims that the public interest in withholding the results of the survey which pertains to the judges not up for reappointment outweighs the public interest in disclosure because the information will promote judge shopping, will stigmatize certain of the judges, and lead to unequal case loads in the courts.
14. The complainants argue that the public interest will be served by disclosure because the public has a right to know how the decisions on reappointment were made, and because the judges who have been evaluated would be able to improve their performance if they are provided with the results of the survey.
15. It is found that while the respondent did seriously and in good faith consider the effect upon disclosure to the public, the respondent failed to prove that the public interest in withholding such documents clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure.
Docket #86-72 Page Three
16. Respondent further claims that the requested record is exempt under 1-19(c)(1), G.S.
17. It is found that 1-19(c) clarifies 1-19(b)(1) by clearly stating that disclosure shall not be required of a preliminary draft of a memorandum, prepared by a member of the staff of a public agency, which is subject to revision prior to submission to or discussion among the members of such agency.
18. It is found that the summary of the data pertaining to the judges is not a preliminary draft of a memorandum, prepared by a member of the staff of a public agency, which is subject to revision prior to submission to or discussion among the members of a public agency and therefore, it is not exempt under 1-19(c)(1).
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint.
1. The respondent shall provide the complainants with a copy of the data requested by them on March 7, 1986.
Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of June 11, 1986.
Karen J. Haggett
Clerk of the Commission