Wisconsin Newspress, Inc. v. School District of Sheboygan Falls was a case before the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 1996 concerning open records requests.
This case established that internal investigation records concerning the discipline of public employees are not all exempt but must be considered on a case by case basis using a balancing test weighing the public interest in disclosure against the public interest in withholding the records.
- In February and March of 1994, Wisconsin Newspress Inc. submitted a records request to the school district of Sheboygan Falls for all information relating to disciplinary investigations relating to a past district administrator, Norman Frakes.
- The district released a select number of documents but rejected the remaining requests claiming that the documents contained personal information, exempt under state law.
- Newspress filed suit in district court.
- The court ruled in favor of the school district.
- Newspress appealed the decision to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Ruling of the court
The trial court ruled in favor of the city, citing Armada Broadcasting, Inc. v. Stirn, which, the circuit court claims, exempted all public employee disciplinary records.
The Supreme Court overruled the decision of the trial court and ordered a majority of the records exempt.
The Supreme Court determined that the case presented by the trial court did in fact provide an exception for some public employee disciplinary investigations, but still required a case by case examination of the facts. This case by case examination required the application of the balancing test established by Newspapers Inc. v. Breier and cited in Woznicki v. Erickson, in order to determine if release of the records ran counter to the public interest. Based on this test, the court determined that the public interest in monitoring the behavior of public officials outweighs the individual public official's interest in privacy. Based on this test, the court ordered the document released. However, the court held that the second document in question, a letter between the District attorney and the school district is protected from attorney client privilege. Thus the court overturned the majority of the circuit courts ruling but still maintained some of the documents exempt.