State Defender Union Employees v Legal Aid & Defender Association of Detroit was a case before the Michigan Court of Appeals in 1998 concerning open records.
This case established that for a private non-profit to be state funded and thus be considered a public body subject to the Michigan Freedom of Information Act, the funding must be in the form of grants or subsidies and not as payments in exchange for goods and services rendered.
- Legal Aid and Defender is a private non-profit corporation who provides legal aid to impoverished individuals in Detroit. Legal Aid's articles of incorporation states that it receives its funds from donation and from state agencies through contracts for services rendered. State Defender Union is the union that represents attorneys that are hired by Legal Aid.
- The union submitted a public records request on January 9, 1996, pursuant to the Michigan Freedom of Information Act, for the detailed financial documents of the company. The union claimed they had a right to the documents because Legal aid received a majority of their funding through the state.
- The Union filed suit in circuit court. The court ruled in favor of Legal Aid.
- The decision was appealed.
Ruling of the court
The trial court ruled in favor of Legal Aid, determining that they were not a public body because they only receive funds in exchange for services rendered through professional legal aid.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the trial court, determining that the law did not apply to Legal Aid.
The Court of Appeals began by citing, Kubick v. Child and Family Services of Michigan Inc, which determined that the threshold for being primarily funded by the state was 10% of funds coming from the state. Based on this assertion alone, Legal Aid qualified as a state funded organization because they received 85% of their income from the state. However, the court goes on to determine that the legislatures intention in using the term "funded" within the definition of a public body was to limit the definition of public body to only those corporations which receive grants or subsidies and not payments for services rendered. Based on this fact, the court affirmed the decision of the trial court and ruled in favor of Legal Aid.
Kubick v. Child and Family Services of Michigan Inc