OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
|In the Matter of a Complaint by||FINAL DECISION|
|Attorney Russell Collins, LLC,|
|against||Docket #FIC 2002-076|
Clerk, G.A. #7, Connecticut Superior Court;
State of Connecticut, Judicial Branch,
|Respondents||November 13, 2002|
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on June 4 and July 18, 2002, at which times the complainant and the respondents appeared and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. By order of the hearing officer and with the consent of the parties, the parties and their names have been amended and restated in order to set forth accurately the parties to this contested case.
After consideration of the entire record, the following facts are found and conclusions of law are reached:
1. The respondents are public agencies “with respect to their administrative functions”, within the meaning of §1-200(1)(A), G.S.
2. By letter dated January 28, 2001, the complainant requested that the Clerk, G.A. #7 (Meriden), Connecticut Superior Court, allow him to inspect that Court’s “Pending Book”, the “Daybooks” for the period from January 2, 2002 to January 29, 2002, any central ledger of currently pending cases, and any other record that would allow identification of pending cases in that Court in the pre-arraignment phase of prosecution (together hereinafter “the requested records” or sometimes “the records”). By letter dated February 5, 2002, complainant more specifically stated that in relevant pending criminal cases he sought the defendant’s name, address, date of birth, case docket number, date of the next court hearing, the purpose of the next court hearing, whether the defendant was represented by counsel, and whether the defendant was incarcerated.
3. By letter dated January 30, 2002, Attorney Martin Libbin of the Court Operations Division, Judicial Branch, responded to complainant’s request letter, claiming that the requested records “pertain to a judicial function, not an administrative function, and therefore are exempt from the Freedom of Information Act”. Following further communications, the respondents, by letter dated February 5, 2002, denied the request to inspect the records.
4. By letter dated February 19, 2002, and filed with the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Commission on February 22, 2002, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the FOI Act by failing to allow inspection of the requested records.
5. The complainant’s main contention is that the respondents violated the FOI Act because the requested records concern the “administrative functions” of a judicial office, that the records are not otherwise exempt and that much of the information contained in the requested records becomes public in piecemeal fashion over time. In essence, the complainant expects a specific judicial office to make relatively large quantities of non-exempt information available quickly, in the manner that has become more common in recent years with the widespread use of computerized databases.
6. The respondents’ main contention is that the requested records concern “adjudicative functions” of a judicial office, as that term has been defined in relevant decisions of the Connecticut Supreme Court, and are therefore beyond the jurisdiction of the FOI Act. The respondents also argue that disclosure of the records would interfere with performance of judicial functions, primarily because the process of ensuring an up to date redaction of exempt information concerning juveniles, sealed records, and erased records is extremely time consuming and burdensome. Respondents are willing to give the complainant the requested records on a piecemeal, “single case at a time” basis, working from a manual check of court files to protect exempt data in each case, but decline to provide records for classes of pending cases based upon the computerized records of the respondent Judicial Branch.
7. The relevant case law defining “administrative functions” of a judicial office, as that term is used in §1-200(1)(A), G.S., is found primarily at: Rules Committee of the Superior Court of Connecticut v. FOI Commission, 192 Conn. 234 (1984) (hereinafter Rules Committee); Connecticut Bar Examining Committee v. FOI Commission, 209 Conn. 204 (1988) (hereinafter Bar Examining Committee); and Fromer v. FOI Commission, 36 Conn. App. 155 (1994) (hereinafter Fromer).
8. In Rules Committee, the Supreme Court cited §§51-5a and 51-9, G.S., as setting forth examples of administrative functions, statutes which “speak mainly to the accounting, personnel, scheduling and record keeping activities of the Judicial Department” (p. 244). In Bar Examining Committee, the Supreme Court reaffirmed that “administrative functions” excludes matters involved in the adjudication of cases and refers only to matters relating to the internal management of the internal institutional machinery of the court system (p. 208). But acknowledging the ambiguity of the analytical terms, the Supreme Court also said: “It is not at all clear, however, that all of the records generated in this adjudicative process are wholly unrelated to the internal management of the court system or that all of them must be withheld from public view to avoid interference with that process” (p. 210). Finally, in Fromer, a court monitor’s tapes were held to be outside the FOI Act’s jurisdiction, regardless of whether the record in question was the tape recording or a transcript thereof.
9. It is found that the “Pending Book” or “pending case report” is a computer printout of all cases pending at a given court location, delivered from the statewide Judicial Information Systems office once or twice a week; that the “Daybooks” are a paper log of all cases received by a given court, created by the clerks of that court and based, for criminal matters, upon the receipt of a uniform arrest report; that the “Access Database” at G.A. 7 in Meriden contains some, but not all, of the information the complainant requested; and finally, that the Criminal/Motor Vehicle Computer System (“CRMVS”) is a continually updated computer system which contains the information that the complainant is seeking; CRMVS is centrally operated by the respondent Judicial Branch, but is available locally to the respondent Clerk, G.A. #7, Connecticut Superior Court.
10. It is further found that, in order to redact newly exempt information concerning juveniles, sealed records, and erased records from the “Pending Book” and the “Daybooks”, a time consuming and burdensome process of checking each file in the CRMVS must be performed. This is the process that the assistant clerk at G.A. #7 performed with reference to the complainant’s request, a process which required four or five hours in order to check only two relevant days of the “Daybooks”. The “Pending Book” and particularly the “Daybooks”, therefore, are more traditional information records, subject to the familiar limitation of not being current or “real time”.
11. Section 1-211, G.S., requires a public agency to provide data from a computer system “if the agency can reasonably make such a copy or have such a copy made.” It is found that new administrative procedures may be required to guarantee the timely entry of new data concerning exempt records into the CRMVS, in order that its records can be available for public inspection at certain periodic intervals to be determined by the respondent Judicial Branch. However, it is also found that such new administrative procedures would be reasonable, and therefore that the records requested can “reasonably” be made available from the CRMVS for at least periodic inspection, as envisioned by §1-211, G.S. (“Periodic” might combine with the concept of “reasonably” to mean once a month, at the end of every week, or at the end of every day. The definition of a reasonable period might also change over time as technology improves or based upon budgetary and staffing constraints.)
12. As suggested by the Supreme Court’s language in Bar Examining Committee set forth at paragraph 8, above, it is concluded that, because some records serve both “administrative functions” and “adjudicative functions”, the distinction between records pertaining to each function is not self-evident. This conclusion is also similar to the practical, result oriented approach that the Supreme Court endorsed when it wrote in Bar Examining Committee that: “any records relating to the performance of [administrative functions] must be available pursuant to 1-19, unless doing so would in some manner interfere with the performance of judicial functions. (p. 208) (emphasis added).
13. It is concluded that, as information technology improves, more records can be provided by the highly modern information systems of the respondent Judicial Branch, without interfering with the performance of judicial functions. Specifically, pending case information, and not just conviction data, can be provided from computerized court records, without interfering with the performance of judicial functions. Accordingly, and in keeping with the extremely professional practices of the respondent Judicial Branch, the CRMVS records that have both administrative and adjudicative functions are concluded to be, legally, “administrative” records.
14. It is, therefore, concluded that the respondents violated §1-210(a), G.S., by failing to allow the complainant to inspect the requested records as maintained on the CRMVS.
15. The Supreme Court stated in Rules Committee that there was no indication in the legislative history of the 1977 amendment, partially applying the FOI Act to the courts, that the amendment “was intended to stimulate a confrontation with the Judicial Department” (p. 242). In the same spirit, there is no intent to stimulate such a confrontation today. The FOI Commission has attempted to proceed with respect and care in a complex factual setting, involving the capabilities of high technology computerized systems. These systems continually update large amounts of sensitive data, as the respondent Judicial Branch performs its constitutional function of administering justice to citizens of our state. The FOI Commission also appreciates the excellent quality of the factual and legal presentation that the respondents made in this proceeding.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. The respondent Judicial Branch shall periodically allow the complainant to inspect the requested records of the CRMVS. The enforcement of this order shall be stayed for ninety days, in order to allow the respondent Judicial Branch to implement such procedures as it considers appropriate concerning the periods for public inspection and the timely entry of new data by its staff into CRMVS (see paragraph 11, above). These procedures should be designed to continue the guarantee that exempt information is not disclosed due to error.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of November 13, 2002.
Petrea A. Jones
Acting Clerk of the Commission
PURSUANT TO SECTION 4-180(c), G.S., THE FOLLOWING ARE THE NAMES OF EACH PARTY AND THE MOST RECENT MAILING ADDRESS, PROVIDED TO THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION, OF THE PARTIES OR THEIR AUTHORIZED REPRESENTATIVE.
THE PARTIES TO THIS CONTESTED CASE ARE:
Attorney Russell Collins, LLC
c/o Russell Collins, Esq.
900 Chapel Street, Suite 535
new haven, CT 06510
Clerk, G.A. #7, Connecticut Superior Court;
State of Connecticut, Judicial Branch
c/o Martin R. Libbin, Esq.
Judicial Branch, Court Operations Division
100 Washington Street, PO Box 150474
Hartford, CT 06115-0474
Petrea A. Jones
Acting Clerk of the Commission