Times Mirror Co. v. Superior Court was a case before Supreme Court of California in 1991 concerning the release of the governors appointment schedules.
This case established that the assurance of open deliberative process and the assurance of security could be used as aspects of public interest in favor of non-disclosure of public records under the California catch all exemption of statute 6255. The case also affirmed that the deliberative process exemption for working papers found at CA GOVT. 54954.(a) covered the entire deliberative process, not just material documents.
- In August 1988, a writer for the Los Angeles Times submitted a records request for the governors daily schedules and all other material relating to the governors daily activities since his inauguration.
- The governor's office rejected the request based on statute 6254(l) which exempted ""correspondence of and to the Governor or employees of the Governor's office" The Governor also argued that the material was exempt pursuant to statute 6255 because the public interest was in non-disclosure because releasing the information would threaten the governor's security due to the detailed nature of the schedule, and prevent an open exchange of ideas with the governor's office by releasing the names of those with whom he is meeting.
- The Los Angeles Times filed suit, hoping to compel the governor to release the documents.
- The trial court delivered its opinion in favor of the governor on November 22, 1988.
- The Los Angeles Times appealed and the Court of Appeals overturned the ruling, and remanded the case to trial court for an in camera review of the documents.
- The governor appealed to the Supreme Court.
Ruling of the court
The trial court ruled in favor of the governor, agreeing with all of the governors arguments for exemption. The Court of Appeals overturned the decision stating that the release of the documents would not inhibit the deliberative process and the free flow of information because the contents of the meetings were not being sought, merely the times and participants. They further remanded the documents to a trial court for an in camera review to determine whether the documents presented a security risk to the governor.
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the governor, reversing the decision of the court of appeals and rendering the documents exempt.
While the court agreed with the trial court with regards to the correspondence exemption under 6254(l), stating that the schedules did not fall under the plain usage of the term correspondence, namely written letters between individuals, and was thus not exempt. However, with regard to the public interest exemption, the Supreme Court disagreed with the Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court, looking at the executive deliberative process exemption within federal law for guidance, determined that exemptions to protect deliberative process like found in statute 6254 are designed to protect the entire deliberative process, not merely the documents relating to the deliberative process. They also found that the release of who the Governor chose to meet with and when clearly revealed aspects of the governor's deliberations. With this in mind, the court ruled that the public interest in maintaining free and open deliberation within government by exempting the records outweighed the interest in knowing the governors schedule's over the past five years through the release of the records. Based on this fact, the records were ruled exempt under statute 6255. The court felt that the security interest of the Governor was also applicable to statute 6255, thus insuring that these records were exempt from public request.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Ruling of the Court