Courier-Journal v. City of Louisville was a 2006 case before the Kentucky Court of Appeals concerning records of employee performance evaluations.
This case eliminated an automatic exemption for employee evaluation reports and instead opted for a balancing test between personal interest and public interest combined with a redaction process for removing personal information in which the public would have no interest.
- Two members of the cities Metro Parks staff were accused of and convicted of stealing items donated to the city as a part of a clothing drive for needy children.
- The Courier Journal requested a number of documents relating to the investigation and conviction of the individuals, including employee performance evaluations.
- The city complied with most of the requests made by the newspapers, with the exception of the performance evaluations, which they claimed as exempt because they contained personal information whose exemption is found in KRS 61.878(1) (a).
- The attorney general issued an opinion on the case, concurring with the cities decision to withhold the records.
- The newspaper filed suit in circuit court. The court promptly ruled in favor of the city and the newspaper appealed the decision.
Ruling of the court
The circuit court ruled in favor of the city, arguing that the documents in question fell under the exemption for documents of a personal nature, and aligning their decision with the opinion of the attorney general.
The Supreme Court overturned the decision of the trial court, ruling in favor of the newspapers and ordering the documents released.
The Supreme Court began by citing Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government v. Lexington Herald-Leader Co. which dictated that personal privacy cases are influenced by whether or not the information is relevant to the public and whether or not the information would cause serious personal embarrassment. The court went on to cite Zink v. Commonwealth of Kentucky, Department of Workers’ Claims, Labor Cabinet which established a balancing test between public interest and private embarrassment. The interest in privacy has been established by the opinions the attorney general has issued on the subject. However, the newspapers argue that by committing a crime, the individuals in question have heightened the public interest in their performance evaluations. Further, the newspapers argue that one could potentially redact private information of little public value from the documents, and release the remainder of the documents. The court agreed with this decision, determining that a per se exemption for all employee records was inappropriate and ordered the documents redacted for personal information and released.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Ruling of the Court