Attorney General v. School Committee of Northampton was a case before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in 1978 concerning open meetings laws.
This case established that personal privacy exemptions should be considered on a case by case basis and not through the exemption of whole classes of files and documents.
- In 1976, the School Committee of Northampton began a search to replace their resigning superintendent. The committee appointed a selection committee to wade through the 90 plus resumes they had received. The committee selected 16 candidates to report to the full school committee, out of which the committee chose 5 to interview. Throughout the process, candidates names were replaced with numbers to protect privacy.
- The local newspaper requested the list of the applicants names, claiming that it was a public record under the Massachusetts Public Records Act.
- The committee rejected the request, and the newspaper submitted a complaint to the Supervisor of Public Records, who upon receiving a rejection as well, encouraged the attorney general to file suit.
- The judge issued a split ruling, ordering a portion of the names released based on privacy issues.
- The school committee appealed the decision
Ruling of the court
The trial court issued a split ruling, stating that the committee had violated the Massachusetts Public Records Act and the Massachusetts Open Meetings Act by withholding the names. However, the court determined that the release of some of the names may constitute an invasion of personal privacy and would thus be exempt from release. The court ordered the committee to consult the applicants and see which if any wanted their names concealed.
The court of appeals affirmed the decision of the trial court.
The court determined that the fact that the release of some names would cause an invasion of privacy, did not bar the release of all names. Thus, the committee must go on a case by case basis to determine if the names fell under the privacy exemption, and the remaining names were to be released.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 Ruling of the Court