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Wisconsin sunshine lawsuits

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Deliberative Process Exemption

Here is a list of major FOIA court decisions and their effect on the Wisconsin Open Records Law.
(The cases are listed alphabetically. To order them by year please click the icon below the Year heading)

" Year Precedent
Armada Broadcasting, Inc. v. Stirn 1994
Cavey v. Walrath 1999 This case established that public funding was not required to come from tax levies and could come in the form of any money delivered from a public coffer.
Hathaway v. Green Bay School District 1984
Hempel v. City of Baraboo 2005 This case established that the intention and motivation for seeking records requests can be used when balancing the public interest in release of confidential material with the public interest in maintaining the material as exempt and protected.
International Union, UAW v. Gooding 1947
Lautenschlager v. Gunderson 2008 The court ruled that lawmakers can share drafts of bills with lobbyists while withholding the drafts from the public.
Linzmeyer v. D.J. Forcey 2002 The court established that the exemptions set out for police records in federal FOIA law establish an excellent criteria for balancing the public interest in disclosure of police reports with the public interest in non-disclosure.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel v. Department of Administration 2008 This case established that collective bargaining agreement decisions could not override the Wisconsin Open Records Law unless accompanied by a specific legislative bill to do so.
Newspapers Inc. v. Breier 1979
Sands v. Whitnall School District 2008 1.) That materials which are protected under the Wisconsin Open Meetings Law are not necesarily protected from discovery in court.
2.) The state of Wisconsin does not possess a deliberative process exemption.
State ex rel. Newspapers Inc. v. Showers 1987
State of Wisconsin v. Beaver Dam Area Development Corporation 2008 The case established criteria for private institutions receiving public funds to be subject to open records requests. These criteria include:
  • Whether the corporation was funded by a governement agency.
  • Whether the corporation served a public function.
  • Whether it appeared to be a public entity
  • Whether or not the corporation was subject to some degree of control by a government body
  • Whether or not a government body had access to the records of the corporation.
WIREdata, Inc. v. Village of Sussex 2008 1.) Municipalities cannot shrug responsibility for open records requests by contracting with private companies for the storage and release of records. Failures on the part of the private companies to uphold the law will result in actions against the municipalities.

2.) Records requests for records in digital form need not be delivered, nor should be delivered through allowing the requestor to view the original database, but can be delivered in any electronic.

Watton v. Hegerty 2008 This case established that for many exemptions, including exemptions for mental health records, the legislatures intent on protecting the records expands the exemption to records pertaining to the subject but held by other, government agencies that are not specifically designated by the statutory exemption.
Wisconsin Newspress, Inc. v. School District of Sheboygan Falls 1996 This case established that internal investigation records concerning the discipline of public employee 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.
Woznicki v. Erickson 1996 This case established that records held about an individual by a government agency are public records subject to request. However, the individual about whom the record pertains has a right to be notified of the release of the record and has the right to file suit to stop the release of those records.
Zellner v. Cedarburg School District 2007 This case established that copyright materials are considered exempt if they fail to meet the federal copyright "fair use" criteria. If they meet the criteria, they can be released.
Zellner v. Herrick 2009 This case established a strict twenty (20) day time limit to appeals of open records cases in Wisconsin.