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Open Records — balancing test

Wisconsin Court of Appeals


Open Records — balancing test

An open records request was properly denied where the requestor had a history of violence against the employee who was the subject of the request.

“An in camera review of requested documents is not mandatory.  Village of Butler v. Cohen, 163 Wis. 2d 819, 827, 472 N.W.2d 579 (Ct. App. 1991).  We have held ‘that if the policy reasons the custodian lists for nondisclosure are of sufficient specificity, and if those reasons override the presumption in favor of disclosure, an in camera inspection is unnecessary.’ Id.  Here, the MBSD stated with specificity that its reasons for rejecting Ardell’s request were the domestic abuse injunction and the resulting criminal case.  The circuit court denied Ardell’s request for an in camera review of the documents, noting that ‘the facts are undisputed that he’s a predator and she’s the victim.  And that he went to jail [for] it.  After being warned, and he’s incarcerated, and he’s back out and he’s being a predator again.’ We agree with the MBSD and the circuit court that Ardell’s history of violence against the employee and violations of the domestic abuse injunction are sufficient to warrant nondisclosure without an in camera review.  We need not speculate as to how Ardell would use the information to harm the employee.  His violent history plainly demonstrates an intent to harm that is inconsistent with the purpose of open records law.”


Recommended for publication in the official reports.

2013AP1650 State of Wisconsin ex rel. Ardell v. Milwaukee Board of School Directors

Dist. I, Milwaukee County, Amato, J., Brennan, J.

Attorneys: For Appellant: Mason, Rebecca Kathryn, Racine; For Respondent: Rutledge, Melanie J., Milwaukee

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