Linzmeyer v. D.J. Forcey was a case before the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2002 concerning open records requests.
The court established that the exemptions set out for police records in federal FOIA law establish an excellent criteria for balancing the public interest in disclosure of police reports with the public interest in non-disclosure.
- Linzmeyer was a teacher and coach at Neenah High School. In November and December 2000, he was accused of having inappropriate relations with female students. The school district investigated the allegations but Linzmeyer was not charged with crimes nor was he disciplined in any way.
- The Appleton Post-Crescent and two concerned parents all submitted records requests for the document. The city attorney intended to release the documents but Linzmeyer filed an injunction in Winnebago County Circuit Court seeking to compel the city to withhold the documents.
- The circuit court ruled against Linzmeyer.
- Linzmeyer appealed the case to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals who sent the case to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Ruling of the court
The circuit court ruled in favor of the newspaper, stating that the public interest in monitoring the behavior of a publicly present individual, a teacher, was much higher than the public interest in preserving privacy. Based on this, the court ordered the records released.
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the trial court and maintained that the documents should be released.
The Supreme Court determined that the record did in fact fall under the open records law. They also felt that none of the many statutory exemptions applied to the investigation record. However, the court determined that it must weigh the public interest in withholding the document against the public interest in releasing it, and that a strong argument in favor of withholding the document in the public interest could exempt the record from public records requests, per Hathaway v. Green Bay School District and Wisconsin Newspress, Inc. v. School District of Sheboygan Falls. The court determines that it must apply the balancing test established in Woznicki v. Erickson to weigh these two competing interests. The court determined that the public's interest in insuring proper police investigations and proper behavior on the part of a teacher serving the public weighed heavily in favor of release. The court also established that the public interest in protecting privacy stemmed from the results of non-protection on public business and did not factor in an individuals desire to maintain his personal privacy and reputation, as was the case with Linzmeyer. Finally the court determined that when investigating and balancing the public interest in disclosing police records, the Federal FOIA law provides an excellent outline for determining situations in which the public interest in exemption outweighs the public interest in release. FOIA statute 5 U.S.C. 552(b)(7) highlights 6 reasons why police records are exempt;
1.) The release would interfere with trials
2.) Deprive a person of a fair trial
3.) Invade privacy
4.) Disclose confidential sources
5.) Would disclose law enforcement investigative techniques
6.) Would endanger any individual
The court felt that none of these exceptions applied to Linzmeyer's police report and consequentially, the public interest in the report clearly outweighed the public interest in maintaining the report exempt. The court affirmed the decision of the lower court and released the record.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 [Ruling of the Court]