A. S. Abell Publishing Co. v. Mezzanote was a 1983 case before the Maryland Court of Appeals concerning the applicability of open records laws to non-profits.
This case affirmed the decision in Moberly v. Herboldsheimer, that the state does not need to exercise total control over a private body for the private entity to be considered a public body.
- Maryland Insurance Guaranty Association (MIGA) is a private non-profit established by the legislature in order to regulate the various insurance providers of the state and insure prompt payment of insurance claims. Its board of directors is appointed by the State Insurance Commissioner and serve fixed terms. The commissioner is also responsible for approving all actions taken by MIGA and create new rules and standards for the corporation. It is funded by fees taken from the various insurance providers, which are required to be members of MIGA in order to sell insurance in the state.
- On February 24 1982, a reporter working for A.S. Abell Publishing Company submitted a formal records request to Albert Mezzanote in his capacity as chairman of the board of the Maryland Insurance Guaranty Association.
- On March 8, 1982 MIGA denied the request claiming that they were not a public body under the law because the state did not exercise complete control over MIGA and if they are subject to the act, much of what the reporter had requested was exempt from disclosure.
- On March 22, 1982, the publishing company filed suit against MIGA seeking to compel disclosure of the documents.
- On July 21, 1982 the court ruled in favor of MIGA and split the cost of the lawsuit between the parties.
- The newspaper appealed the decision.
Ruling of the court
The trial court ruled in favor of MIGA determining that it was not a public body. It never arrived at the question of exempt documents and chose not to award attorney fees to either side.
The Court of Appeals The Court of Appeals first rejected MIGA's contention that only complete control by the state of an entity would result in that entity being deemed a public body, citing and affirming the decision in Moberly v. Herboldsheimer. The court went on to find a number of additional parrallels between Moberly v. Herboldsheimer and the current case. Both MIGA and the defendant on Moberly were created by statute for a clearly identifiable public purpose. In addition, the court found that the degree of state control over MIGA far exceeds the degree of state control in Moberly. Based on these determinations, the court ruled in favor of the newspapers and declared that MIGA is in fact a public body subject to the public records act. The court then remanded the decision for a review of documents in question and the awarding of attorney fees.