Jackson v. Eastern Michigan University was a case before the Michigan Court of Appeals in 1996 concerning the definition of a public body.
This case affirmed the 50% test established by Kubick v. Child and Family Services of Michigan Inc for determining whether a private entity is primarily funded through public funds. This case also affirmed that if a private entity is created or empowered by a public body for a public function, then it is in fact subject to the Michigan Open Meetings Act.
- On October 24, 1989 the Board of Regents approved a resolution to create a fund-raising foundation.
- On May 29, 1990 the foundation was incorporated as a private non-profit. In its articles of incorporation it stated that it was incorporated to receive, invest and administer funds on behalf of the University. The president of the University signed the articles of incorporation in his individual capacity. The by-laws of the Foundation established a 15 member board of trustees, 5 of whom, including the president, were to be University employees or officials.
- During its first two years, the Foundation received over half of its funds from the University. Then, on March 24, 1992, the University transferred its entire $,7 million dollar endowment to the Foundation. The contract for the transfer stipulated that the Foundation was an independent contractor and could not be considered as acting on behalf of the University.
- Eric Jackson filed a request for informaiton concerning the meetings and finances of the Foundation and its board.
- When the request was denied Jackson filed suit in court.
- On August 30, 1993, the trial court ruled in favor of the University.
- Jackson appealed the decision.
Ruling of the court
The trial court ruled in favor of the University, determining that the foundation was not a public body and was therefor not subject to the Michigan Freedom of Information Act or the Michigan Open Meetings Act. The trial court rejected the contention that the Foundation was primarily funded, based on the University's assumption that the Foundation would eventually become economically independent.
The Court of Appeals overturned the decision of the lower court and ordered the documents in question released. The court determined that, citing Kubick v. Child and Family Services of Michigan Inc, the fact that over 50% of the Foundation's funding came from the University, it was in fact primarily funded and thus subject to the records act. The court held that intentions of future funding did not matter and that only the current funding situation was applicable in determining whether a private entity is publicly funded. In addition, the court held that the Michigan Open Meetings Act applied because the University was created by a governing body with the goal of performing a governmental function. Based on these two considerations, the Court decided to overturn the decision of the trial court and ordered the documents released.