CBS Broadcasting v. Superior Court was a case before the California Second District Court of Appeal, Division 4 in 2001 concerning the release of records containing lists of criminals who had received exemptions to work in daycare centers.
This case established that records requests involving personal information are not automatically exempt, but need to be considered in light of the public interest of the release.
- California Department of Social Services (DSS) grants exemption to released convicts to permit them to work in daycares and other childcare facilities based on the age of convictions, the type of conviction and records of the success of rehabilitation.
- On August 11, 2000, CBS broadcasting made a public records request at the California Department of Social Services (DSS) for a list of released criminals who have received the appropriate exemption to work in daycare services. The also requested the list of all day cares who employed released convicts.
- In the open records request, CBS acknowledged that portions of the documents may be exempt and requested that exempt information be redacted.
- On September 5, 2000, DSS rejected the request based on statute 6254's exemption based on an individuals right to privacy as well as the California Penal Code which prevents the release of an individuals criminal record to unauthorized individuals.
- However, accompanying the rejection was a copy of the manual to determine exemptions, a detailed description of the exemption process, and important statistics about the number of exemptions granted and the number of felons granted exemptions.
- On January 11, 2001 CBS filed suit, arguing that the matter at hand was of critical public interest, which outweighed the individuals right to privacy. DSS maintained its arguments and also argued that to collect the records and insure their accuracy would place an undue burden on DSS in terms of staffing.
Ruling of the court
The trial court ruled in favor of DSS for a number of reasons. They argued that the legislature established the DSS and the processes for exemption with the intention of protecting the privacy of individuals who went through the process, and that any challenge to that exemption should occur in the legislature. Further, they felt that the express exemptions for real estate licenses established a legislative leaning towards exemption for the records of other special licensing agencies.
The Court of Appeals ruled in favor of CBS ordering all the requested records disclosed.
It agreed with CBS in regards to the public interest in the records, declaring that the public has an incontrovertible interest in ensuring that DSS does not abuse its power to grant exemptions to criminals. The court also declared that DSS, under PRA, must release the records in their entirety in order to ensure a full evaluation on the part of the public, per CBS Inc. v. Block. In addition, it disagreed with DSS and declared that the records did not fall under the exemptions contained in the penal code because the information being requested by CBS did not fall under any exemptions as a mere criminal conviction of an individual was already public record. Finally, they felt that the accrued cost of establishing an accurate list was negligible because DSS should already maintain an accurate list for records request.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 Ruling of the Court