- See also Zellner v. Cedarburg School District.
Zellner v. Herrick was a 2009 case before the Wisconsin Supreme Court concerning transcripts of closed hearings.
This case established a strict twenty (20) day time limit to appeals of open records cases in Wisconsin.
- Zellner was a high school science teacher within the Cedarburg School District who was fired for viewing pornography on his work computer.
- Zellner was also an outspoken union leader and critic of the superintendent.
- Zellner filed a union grievance for his termination, claiming that the districts decision to terminate him was out of line with their typical approach to this sort of problem. Arbitration was conducted, per the collective bargaining agreement, and the arbiter held in favor of Zellner and ordered him reinstated with a return of all lost pay. The district refused the arbitration hearing and the case went to court.
- After the closed arbitration hearing, Heidi Morgan made a public records request of the transcript of the arbitration hearing under the Wisconsin Open Records Law.
- Zellner filed suit in circuit court, attempting to prevent the release of the documents because it contained personal and medical information.
- On October 1, 2007, the circuit court ruled in favor of Zellner.
- On November 9, 2007 Morgan filed an appeal. Zellner attempted to have the appeal thrown out because it fell outside of the 20 day limit prescribed by Wisconsin law. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals accepted the appeal and redirected it to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Ruling of the court
The trial court ruled in favor of Zellner. The court cited the balancing test from Linzmeyer v. D.J. Forcey and determined that the public interest in keeping future arbitration hearings closed and maintaining collective bargaining agreements outweighed the public interest in the release of the documents.
The Supreme Court ignored the critical issues and instead, merely ruled on the timing of the appeal. The court determined that the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court had no jurisdiction with regard to the case because the appeal was made outside of the time limit. Thus, the court dismissed the case without ruling on the other issues.