Marks v. McKenzie High School Fact Finding Team

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Marksvs.McKenzie High School Fact Finding Team
Number: 319 Or 451, 878 P.2d 417
Year: 1994
State: Oregon
Court: Oregon Supreme Court
Other lawsuits in Oregon
Other lawsuits in 1994
Precedents include:
This case established a number of important precedents:
  1. It established the following criteria to be considered when determining if a private entity is a public body:
  • The entity's origin.
  • The function the entity performs.
  • The entity's authority, (advisory or decision-making).
  • The level of government funding.
  • The level of government control.
  • If the officers and employees of the entity are also government officials.
  1. Extra weight needs to be placed on an entities authority and its capacity to directly alter law and policy as opposed to functioning in a strictly advisory capacity.
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Marks v. McKenzie High School Fact Finding Team was a case before the Oregon Supreme Court in 1994 concerning the applicability of open records laws to advisory committees.

Important precedents

This case established a number of important precedents:

  1. It established the following criteria to be considered when determining if a private entity is a public body:
  1. The entity's origin.
  2. The function the entity performs.
  3. The entity's authority, (advisory or decision-making).
  4. The level of government funding.
  5. The level of government control.
  6. If the officers and employees of the entity are also government officials.
  1. Extra weight needs to be placed on an entities authority and its capacity to directly alter law and policy as opposed to functioning in a strictly advisory capacity.[1]

Background

  • On December 18, 1991, the McKenzie School District asked the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators (COSA) to appoint a fact finding team that would investigate and make recommendations on the management and operation of McKenzie High School.
  • COSA appointed three of its members, two former school administrators and one on-leave school administrator. The three members were charged with investigating the school and developing a report including recommendations. They received no funds in exchange for this service.
  • In February 1992, concerned parents at the school submitted a request for the records of the fact-finding team. The team rejected the request and the district attorney also declined to file suit in favor of the parents.
  • The parents filed suit and the trial court ruled in favor of the fact finding team.
  • The parents appealed the decision and on appeal, the court ruled in favor of the parents.
  • The fact finding team appealed the decision to the Oregon Supreme Court.[1]

Ruling of the court

The trial court dismissed the case, claiming that the parents had not presented enough evidence to determine that the fact finding team was a public body subject to the Oregon Public Records Law.

The Oregon Court of Appeals overturned the decision and remanded it to the trial court for further consideration. The court determined that the Fact Finding Team was a "commission" of the school board and established that "commission" should be defined so as to include "nongovernmental groups performing duties at the request of a governmental body."[2]

The Supreme Court overturned the decision of the Court of Appeals and dismissed the case. The court justified its decision by first citing similar federal cases which established that if an entity functions in only an advisory capacity and does not have the authority to make decisions, it cannot be considered a public body. The court went on to cite Board of Trustees of Woodstock Academy v. FOIC and Connecticut Humane Society v. FOIC to establish the common use of this federal precedent and again assert a four pronged test that the fact finding team did not fall under. The court went on to site case law from various states, including Parsons & Whittemore, Inc. v. Metro. Dade County, Consolidated Edison Company v. Insurance Department of the State of New York, North Central Association of Colleges & Schools v. Troutt Brothers, Inc., State of Louisiana v. Nicholls College Foundation, News and Observer Publishing Co. v. Wake County Hospital System and Bradbury v. Shaw. Based on these various decisions, the court established 6 criteria for consideration when determining whether a private entity may fall under the Oregon Public Records Law. The six criteria include:

  1. The entity's origin.
  2. The function the entity performs.
  3. The entity's authority, (advisory or decision-making).
  4. The level of government funding.
  5. The level of government control.
  6. If the officers and employees of the entity are also government officials.

The court went on to find that the fact finding team was both created by a public body and was performing a governmental function. It then established that the scope of the entities authority was narrow, as it was only an advisory committee. It further established that the school board had no control over the team and that the team received no public funds and team members were not public officials. Based on this, the court determined that the fact-finding team, despite the fact that it was created by a public body and performed a public function, it could not be considered a public body. Weighing heavily on this decision was the fact that the team did not have a direct impact on public decision-making, except through the report issued to the city council which was a public record already. Thus, the court overturned the decision of the Court of Appeals and ruled in favor of the fact finding team.[1]

Associated cases

See also

External links

References