Bradbury v. Shaw was a case before the New Hampshire Supreme Court in 1976 concerning the application of open records laws to a private committee.
This case established a number of important precedents:
- Heavy involvement in governmental affairs and functions can be sufficient to make a private board or committee a public body subject to the law.
- There is no good faith exemption to the awarding of attorney fees.
- The Mayor's Industrial Advisory Committee was created by the Mayor and consists of mostly businessmen, but also newspaper representatives and city council members. The meetings are called by the mayor and the committee performs a variety of cuntions including gathering information for potential investors and contacting those investors and businesses.
- The committee also functioned in a strongly advisory capacity with regard to the sale and purchase of land by the city. The committee organized the sale of two parcels of land in 1973 and was organizing a third at the time of suit. The mayor also asks it to review and approve all land purchases before he chooses to submit them to the city council.
- Bradbury filed suit, attempting to gain access to the meetings and minutes of the Committee under the New Hampshire Right to Know Law. When she was denied access, she filed suit.
- The trial court ruled in favor of Bradbury, ordering the release of the majority of the documents in question, with a few documents exempted under law.
- The decision was appealed.
Ruling of the court
The trial court ruled against the committee, determining that they were in fact subject to the statute and ordering the documents released. The trial court also granted attorney's fees to the plaintiff.
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the trial court, determining that the committee was sufficiently involved in the affairs of government and was thus a "board, commission, agency, or authority of [a] municipal corporation," and subject to the law. The court went on to determine that the trial court properly awarded attorney fees to the plaintiff. The court felt that an exemption to the awarding of attorney fees for good faith attempts to comply with the law was inconsistent with the intention of the attorney fees award, which centered on enabling individuals who cannot afford legal counsel to obtain the documents they requested.