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Citizens for a Better Environment v. Dept. of Food & Agriculture

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Citizens for a Better Environmentvs.Dept. of Food & Agriculture
Number: 171 Cal.App.3d 704, 217 Cal. Rptr. 504
Year: 1985
State: California
Court: California Third District Court of Appeal
Other lawsuits in California
Other lawsuits in 1985
Precedents include:
This case established a number of important precedents:

1.) For material to qualify for the "working papers" exemption found at CA GOVT. 54954.(a), it must A.) be a preliminary draft, note, or memorandum, B.) not be retained for ordinary business, and C.) the public interest must favor non-disclosure.
2.) The intention of the "working papers" exemption found at CA GOVT. 54954.(a) "is to provide a measure of agency privacy for written discourse concerning matters pending administrative action."[1]

3.) Opinions and recommendations must be separated from factual material. In addition factual material can include statements and observations made by individuals, when it is not coupled with an opinion on the subject or a recommendation for change.[1]
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Deliberative Process Exemption


Citizens for a Better Environment v. Dept. of Food & Agricultur was a case before the California Third District Court of Appeal in 1985 concerning the deliberative process exemption.

Important precedents

This case established a number of important precedents:
1.) For material to qualify for the "working papers" exemption found at CA GOVT. 54954.(a), it must A.) be a preliminary draft, note, or memorandum, B.) not be retained for ordinary business, and C.) the public interest must favor non-disclosure.
2.) The intention of the "working papers" exemption found at CA GOVT. 54954.(a) "is to provide a measure of agency privacy for written discourse concerning matters pending administrative action."[1]
3.) Opinions and recommendations must be separated from factual material. In addition factual material can include statements and observations made by individuals, when it is not coupled with an opinion on the subject or a recommendation for change.[1]

Background

  • In November 1980, Citizens for a Better Governement submitted a public records request to the Department of Food and Agriculture for all materials from 1977 relating to the enforcement of federal pesticide regulations, including specifically both final and incomplete reports and drafts.
  • The Department denied the request, claiming that because the reports being sought were not completed, they fell under the exemption for working papers found at CA GOVT. 54954.(a).
  • Citizens filed suit but the trial court ruled in favor of the department.
  • The decision was appealed.[1]

Ruling of the court

The trial court ruled in favor of the Department, determining that the records in question were filled with opinions which could not be redacted from factual information.

The court overturned the decision of the trial court and ordered the release of portions of the document. The court justified their decision by first turning to the statute in question. The court determined that, based on the statute, three criteria must be met in order for a document to be considered exempt as a "working paper," namely: 1.) it must be a preliminary draft, note, or memorandum, 2.) which is not retained for ordinary business, and 3.) the public interest must favor non-disclosure.[1] The court went on to establish that the writings in question are clearly predicisional, preliminary drafts and thus qualify for the first prong of the test. In addition, the court found that the working papers were routinely discarded upon completion of the final report and therefor, the documents in question were not retained by the public body for ordinary business. Finally the court established that the interest in maintaining open and frank communications within the department qualified as a substantial justification for withholding portions of the document in question. However, the court overturned the decision of the trial court with regard to factual material that may be removed and released from the documents. The court went through the documents and exempted true statements of opinion and recommendation but left a majority of the documents untouched and ordered their release.[1]

Associated cases

See also

External links

References