Gwich'in Steering Committee v. Office of the Governor

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Gwich'in Steering Committeevs.Office of the Governor
Number: S-9026/9046
Year: 2000
State: Alaska
Court: Alaska Supreme Court
Other lawsuits in Alaska
Other lawsuits in 2000
Precedents include:
This case altered the justification of the deliberative process exemption established by Doe v. Superior Court. This court instead determined that the exemption was designed to protect the give and take of the deliberative process. The court also established two criteria for the deliberative process exemption, namely:

1.) That the materials be predecisional.

2.) That the materials represent the deliberative process and include a give and take of opinions and recommendations.
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Deliberative Process Exemption


Gwich'in Steering Committee v. Office of the Governor was a case before the Alaska Supreme Court in 2000 concerning the deliberative process exemption based on Alaska Public Records Act statute 09.23.120(a)(4).

Important precedents

This case altered the justification of the deliberative process exemption established by Doe v. Superior Court. This court instead determined that the exemption was designed to protect the give and take of the deliberative process. The court also established two criteria for the deliberative process exemption, namely: 1.) That the materials be predecisional.
2.) That the materials represent the deliberative process and include a give and take of opinions and recommendations.

Background

  • The Governor of Alaska has been actively involved in lobbying Washington to open the Arctic

National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). including hiring a lobbying company, The Wexler Group, to represent their interest in Washington.

  • The Gwich'in Steering Committee is a non-profit whose goal is to protect the ANWR refuge from oil drilling.
  • In November 1997 the Gwich'in Steering Committee submitted a broad open records request, requesting any information about lobbying at Washington.
  • The government finally produced most of the documentation requested but withheld eight documents based on the deliberative process exception established by Doe v. Superior Court and statute 09.23.120(a)(4).
  • The Gwich'in Steering Committee filed suit and the government released one of the remaining eight documents but withheld the rest

Ruling of the court

The district court ruled in favor of the Office of the Governor and declared that all the remaining documents fell under the deliberative process agreement. Both sides, however, appealed this ruling.

The Supreme court began this decision by examining the purpose of the deliberative process exemption. The Supreme Court, contrary to the argument of the Gwich'in Steering Committee, declared that the exemption was not affected by the separation of powers or limited to the duties assigned to the governor within the Alaskan Constitution. The court instead determined that the exemption was designed to protect the give and take of any deliberation. The court also determined that all of the documents held by the office of the governor met the two criteria of an deliberative process document, namely:
1.) That the materials be predecisional.
2.) That the materials represent the deliberative process and include a give and take of opinions and recommendations.

Finally the court held that the public interest in disclosure does not outweigh the importance of non-disclosure for governmental policies and future deliberative processes. Thus, the court ruled in favor of the governor, maintaining the secrecy of the documents.

Associated cases

See also

External links

References