ACLU v. City of Seattle was a case before the Washington Court of Appeals in 2009 concerning the records of police union negotiations.
This case established a number of important precedents:
- That deliberative process exemptions do not apply strictly to intra-agency documentation.
- That statements or lists of proposed topics to be used in collective bargaining are exempt under Washington public records law under the deliberative process agreement.
- The Police Guild is a private union representing Seattle Police Officers.
- In 2002 the union began contract negotiations.
- The two groups used a type of collective bargaining based not on point counter-point bargaining but the interests of the two groups known as Interest Based Bargaining(IBB).
- IBB begins with each party making lists of interests and exchanging them. These lists are used to guide the flow of negotiations for the entire period.
- The ACLU sued for both the police union and the cities lists.
Supporters of the FOIA request
The American Civil Liberties Union, the entity making the request, argued that the lists were final decisions on negotiating points and thus not exempt under the deliberative process law.
Ruling of the court
The trial court ruled in favor of the police unions and declared that all union negotiations fall under the deliberative process clause of the Washington Public Records Act under section 42.56.280 because they constituted only opinions and recommendations.
It was appealed to the Washington Court of Appeals, which ruled in favor of the city.
The court of appeals declared that a deliberative process exemption requires:
- that the records be "predecisional opinions"
- "that disclosure would be injurious to the deliberative process"
- that disclosuer would inhibit the movement of ideas and opinions
The court ruled that the ideas expressed in the IBB statements were in fact opinions and suggestions and that the release of them would be misconstrued and harm the trust needed for the collective bargaining to be successful. However, the court did note that this did not create en exemption for all forms of collective bargaining but merely IBB collective bargaining.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Washington Court of Appeals opinion
- ↑ Washington Code 42.56.280