COMMISSIONER OF PUBLIC SAFETY v. FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION et al., SC 18489

Judicial District of New Britain

 

Freedom of Information Act; Dissemination of Sex Offender Registration Information; Whether Court Records Concerning Placement of Sex Offenders on Non-Public Sex Offender Registry are Exempt from Disclosure by the Department of Public Safety. The plaintiff denied a newspaper reporter's request for names and addresses of sex offenders who are not listed on the sex offender registry pursuant to General Statutes 54-255, which allows the plaintiff to restrict public access to sex offender "registration information" if a court finds that its dissemination is not required for public safety and that its publication would be likely to reveal the victim's identity. It also denied the reporter's alternative request for copies of the court orders placing the sex offenders on the non-public sex offender registry. The reporter filed a complaint with the freedom of information commission (commission) and subsequently narrowed his request to seek only the names and locations of the courts that restricted the dissemination of the information, the names of the judges who issued the orders, and the names of the court clerks, prosecutors and defense attorneys who were involved. After a public hearing, the commission found that the term "registration information," although not defined in the statutes, means identifying information about the registrant. It then found that the reporter's revised request did not seek information that would identify the registrants to the general public but, rather, sought administrative information contained in court records. It also found that the plaintiff failed to prove that the court records were sealed or otherwise unavailable for public inspection. Hence, it concluded that the information was not "registration information" and that the plaintiff violated the Freedom of Information Act in not disclosing it. The plaintiff appealed this ruling to the Superior Court. That court agreed with the commission's interpretation of "registration information" and accordingly dismissed the appeal. The Supreme Court will now determine whether the trial court properly dismissed the plaintiff's appeal.