Domestic Violence Services v. FOIC was a case before the Connecticut Court of Appeals in 1998 concerning the applicability of open records laws to publicly funded corporations.
This case established that money exchanged for goods and services is not considered public funding with respect to the balancing test to determine if a private agency is subject to the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act.
- Connecticut law requires that the courts, in conjunction with the state attorney's offices, maintain family violence response units and victims advocacy units within each geographical division of the court.
- In order to provide this service, the judicial department contracted with Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, which in turn developed subcontracts with local domestic violence shelters and response groups.
- Domestic Violence Services of Greater New Haven is one of these subcontractors. It is a non-profit founded by a group of concerned citizens, which provides shelter and support services for victims of domestic violence. It receives around 2/3 of its funding from public sources.
- In December, 1993, Ellen Andrews submitted a records request to Domestic Violence Services of Greater New Haven for records relating to their corporate bylaws and financial operations over the past few years.
- Domestic Violence Services denied the request and Andrews submitted a complaint with the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission.
- On February 28, 1994, Domestic Violence Services voluntarily surrendered the documents in an effort to avoid costly litigation. They claimed, however, that the surrender was not a concession that the service provider was in fact a public body.
- The Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission decided to continue with the hearing and after a hearing on March 31, 1994 the commission decided that Domestic Violence Services was in fact a public body subject to the law.
- Domestic Violence Services appealed the decision to trial court, which overturned the decision of the commission, declaring that the service provider was not a public body subject to the act.
- The Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission appealed the decision.
Ruling of the court
The Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission Ruled in favor of Andrews, claiming that Domestic Violence Services was in fact a public body and ordered that the service provider strictly comply with the law in the future.
However, the trial court disagreed with the commission and overturned the decision.
The Supreme Court went on to affirm the decision of the trial court, determining that the service provider was not in fact a public body subject tot he freedom of information act. First, the court determined that the trial courts review of the case did not overstep the legal bounds as it merely used the facts presented in the hearing conducted by the FOIC and applied them to the test established by Board of Trustees of Woodstock Academy v. FOIC. The court went on to independently analyze the four prong test from Board of Trustees of Woodstock Academy v. FOIC, to determine the validity of the trial courts finding. First the court determined that the legislative intent of the laws requiring local courts to provide domestic violence services indicated that providing those services was in fact a governmental function. However, this is the only prong of the test that is met by Domestic Violence Services. The court went on to find that the funding received by the service provider was in exchange for goods and services that the organization provides to the courts and is thus not considered public funding. It also established that the local government and courts did not exercise any control over the service provider and that standard state licensing procedures was not an indication of governmental control. Finally, the court established that the non-profit was not created by a public body. Thus, the court determined that Domestic Violence Services was not a public body and not subject to the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act.