Sebastian County Chapter of American Red Cross v. Weatherford

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Sebastian County Chapter of American Red Crossvs.Weatherford
Number: 311 Ark. 656, 846 S.W.2d 641
Year: 1993
State: Arkansas
Court: Arkansas Supreme Court
Other lawsuits in Arkansas
Other lawsuits in 1993
Precedents include:
This case established that only direct public funding resulted in a private agency being considered subject to the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.
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Sebastian County Chapter of American Red Cross v. Weatherford was a case before Arkansas Supreme Court in 1993 concerning open records.

Important precedents

This case established that only direct public funding resulted in a private agency being considered subject to the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.[1]


Background

  • On December 6, 1983, the Fort Smith Board of Directors adopted a resolution to lease a parcel of land to the American Red Cross for $1 a year for 30 years. The Red Cross was obligated to construct its offices on the lot and the office building and the lot would revert to the cities possession after 30 years.
  • On January 8, 1992, Wanda Weatherford submitted an open records request to the Red Cross to "inspect and copy all non-privileged documents" in the possession of the Red Cross.
  • The Red Cross denied the request claiming that it was not subject to the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.
  • Weatherford filed suit in district court, seeking to compel the Red Cross to release the documents, claiming that the lease constituted public funding.
  • The Red Cross asserted that it was not a public body because the cost of constructing the buildings came from the Red Cross, the city gained the buildings at the end of the lease at no cost, and that Weatherford was using the FOIA request to gain trial discovery material in pending litigation.
  • The trial court ruled in favor of Weatherford and ordered the documents released. The Red Cross appealed the decision.[2]

Ruling of the court

The trial court ruled in favor of Weatherford, determining that despite the value of the building and the public gain in the construction, the $1 lease value was well below the fair-market value and was thus considered public funding.

The Supreme Court overturned the decision of the trial court and ruled that the Red Cross was not considered a public body subject to the FOIA laws. The Court felt that the plain language of the law was designed only to include only direct funding through money sources. It felt that extending that definition to include alternative methods of funding would constitute a slippery slope that might extend the definition to tax breaks and other methods of government subsidies. Thus, it determined that the Red Cross was not a public body and its records were not subject to the act.[2]

Associated cases

See also

External links

References