FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

 

Edward L. Johnson, Jr. and Connecticut Bar Association,

 

Complainant

 

against Docket #FIC 89-13

 

Commissioner, State of Connecticut Department of Revenue Services,

 

Respondent April 12, 1989

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on February 21, 1989, at which time the complainants and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.

 

After consideration of the entire record, the following facts are found and conclusions of law are reached:

 

1. The respondent is a public agency within the meaning of 1-18a(a), G.S.

 

2. By letter dated December 2, 1988 the complainants made a request of the respondent for an alphabetized list of the names and mailing addresses of those attorneys who are actively practicing law in the state of Connecticut, including those who are active but exempt from taxation and those whom the respondent classifies as "on hold." The complainants seek neither taxpayer account numbers nor the status of individual accounts nor any information pertaining to retired attorneys.

 

3. By letter dated December 19, 1988 the respondent denied the complainants' request as set forth in paragraph 2 of the findings, above.

 

4. By letter of complaint filed with this Commission on January 10, 1989 the complainants appealed the denial of their request.

 

5. The respondent claims that the requested list is exempt from disclosure under 1-19(a) and 1-19(b)(10), G.S., on the ground that 12-15(a), G.S., prohibits its disclosure.

 

6. It is found that an alphabetized list of the names and addresses of attorneys who pass the Connecticut bar examination

 

Docket #FIC 89-13 Page Two

 

is provided by the Connecticut Bar Examining Committee, a judicial branch agency, to the Clerk of the Superior Court for the Judicial District of Hartford, to designated Superior Court Clerks in other counties, and to the respondent as a courtesy.

 

7. Administrative notice is taken of the fact that the names and addresses of Connecticut attorneys are available to the public from a number of sources including general and specialized directories published by the Southern New England Telephone Company, the Connecticut Bar Association, and Martindale and Hubbell.

 

8. It is found that the attorney's occupational tax return used by the respondent requires the individual filing the return to provide, among other things, his or her address, his or her employer or firm name, and an answer to whether any of the enumerated categories of tax exemptions apply to him or her.

 

9. It is also found that it can be inferred from a completed attorney's occupational tax return whether the individual filing the return is actively practicing law in Connecticut.

 

10. It is further found that the respondent maintains a computer data base containing the names and addresses of Connecticut attorneys who have been mailed an occupational tax return as well as those who have returned them. This data base is updated periodically from sources other than tax returns, including lists of newly admitted attorneys supplied by the Connecticut Bar Examining Committee and from lists supplied by the complainant association.

 

11. 12-15(a), G.S. provides in pertinent part:

 

"The commissioner or the commissioner's...agent...shall not make known in any manner any information obtained by an investigation of records or equipment of any person visited or examined in the discharge of official duty; or the amount or source of income...or any particulars thereof set forth or disclosed in any return, statement or report required to be filed with or submitted to the commissioner...."

 

12. It is concluded that to the extent the list sought by the complainants is derived exclusively from information disclosed on the occupational tax return or any other statement or report required to be filed with or submitted to the respondent, such information is exempt from disclosure under 1-19(a), 1-19(b)(10) and 12-15(a), G.S.

 

Docket #FIC 89-13 Page Three

 

13. It is also concluded, however, that to the extent the list sought by the complainants is derived from sources other than those set forth in 12-15, G.S., and paragraph 12 of the findings, above, such information constitutes public records subject to disclosure under 1-19(a), G.S.

 

14. It is found that the respondent failed to prove that the requested list of attorneys was derived exclusively from any of the sources set forth in 12-15, G.S., and paragraph 12 of the findings, above.

 

15. Thus it is concluded that the respondent violated 1-19(a), G.S., by failing to provide the complainants with access to the requested list of attorneys and their mailing addresses.

 

The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:

 

1. The respondent forthwith shall provide the complainants with a list of attorneys as more specifically described in paragraph 2 of the findings, above.

 

2. In complying with paragraph 1 of this order, above, the respondent may charge the complainants for the cost of formatting or programming the computer data base in order to provide the list in alphabetical order as requested by the complainants.

 

3. In complying with paragraph 1 of this order, above, the respondent need not include any information that can be proven to have been obtained exclusively from the sources identified in paragraph 12 of the findings, above.

 

4. Although the Commission is without authority to order disclosure of information exempt from disclosure under 12-15(a), G.S., the Commission believes that neither this statute nor any other statute contemplates withholding from the public any information that in fact is already in the public domain and generally available from public agencies and in public directories. Also, since the requested information in large part has been disseminated in the past, and because there is no overriding tax or other policy reason for nondisclosure, the Commission urges the respondent to reconsider the decision to withhold this information.

 

Approved by order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of April 12, 1989.

 

 

Karen J. Haggett

Clerk of the Commission