Moberly v. Herboldsheimer was a case before the Maryland Court of Appeals in 1975 concerning the applicability of open records laws to non-profits.
This case established that private corporations established by the legislature were established with a municipal or public intent, because otherwise they would have been incorporated under the general laws of the state.
- The Memorial Hospital of Cumberland was established by the issuance of a $500,000 bond by the city of Cumberland in 1927. It was established as a municipal hospital for the city of Cumberland. The hospital was to be managed by a board composed of 5 citizens, the Mayor of Cumberland and the head of the county. The enabling act also included a clause removing liability from the city of Cumberland for any negligence or inappropriate behavior on the part of the board or the hospital.
- In 1929, the General Assembly modified the enabling legislation to make the board a political body including tort liability.
- Robert Herboldsheimer, a newspaper columnist, submitted an open records request for salary information for John Moberly, as Director of Memorial Hospital of Cumberland.
- The hospital rejected the request, claiming that it was not a public body subject to the Maryland Public Information Act.
- Herboldsheimer filed suit and the district court ruled in favor of the Hospital.
- Herboldsheimer appealed the decision and the original appellate court overturned the decision of the trial court and ordered the documents released.
- The Hospital appealed this decision.
Ruling of the court
The District Court ruled in favor of the Hospital, finding that Herboldsheimer had failed to show that the Hospital was an agent of the city of Cumberland.
The Circuit Court overturned the decision of the District Court and ordered the documents released.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the first court of appeal, thereby officially overruling the trial court's decision. First the court determined that the Hospital must have been incorporated for municipal purposes, because otherwise it should have been incorporated under the general incorporation laws and not by special legislation. It also pointed to the fact that funding for the hospital is the responsibility of the city council and any surplus on the part of the hospital returns to the city council. Based on these two factors, the court determined that the hospital was in fact a public body. The court went on to affirm the Circuit courts decision that the documents in question were not exempt as personal information, trade secrets or attorney-client privilege. Thus, the court ordered the documents released as public records.