District Attorney for the Plymouth District v. Board of Selectmen of Middleborough was a case before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in 1985 concerning open meetings.
This case established that the right of attorney-client privilege for the state was waived by the Massachusetts Open Meetings Act, and that there was no exception to permit closed executive sessions to preserve confidentiality for the state when addressing their attorney.
- On December 12, 1983, the Board of Selectmen held an open meeting. During this meeting, the board voted to convene a closed executive session to discuss certain matters with their attorney.
- The local newspaper, who was denied access to the meeting, submitted a complaint to the district attorney, who immediately filed suit.
- The trial court ruled in favor of the newspapers and the District Attorney, and ordered the minutes of the meetings released.
- The city appealed the decision claiming that there should be an implicit exception to the open meetings law for attorney-client privilege, in order to protect public bodies from revealing valuable secret information about litigation.
Ruling of the court
The trial court ruled in favor of the newspapers and district attorneys, claiming that there was no exemption present in the Massachusetts Open Meetings Act which premitted a closed executive session in this situation.
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the trial court.
The court determined that the Massachusetts Open Meetings Act was in itself a statutory waver to any claims on attorney client privilege. By asserting this, and refusing to carve out a new exception, the court eliminated the possibility for closed sessions due to attorney client privilege. It thus, affirmed the order of the lower court, and ordered the documents released.