ConnectiCOSH wins freedom of information appeal to obtain OSHA whistleblower documents

On August 14, 2014 the Connecticut Council on Occupational Safety and Health received internal OSHA documents regarding the worker whistleblower program. The original request was made in order to determine how to improve protections for workers facing harassment and retaliation when raising health and safety concerns. These documents were initially requested on June 2, 2010 and were withheld by OSHA with a claim that they were “interagency documents.”

On June 3, 2011 an appeal was filed to obtain the withheld documents and on August 11, 2014 the denial of the information was overruled. The three documents provided included a 1998 memo regarding a whistleblower task force, a 2009 review of the whistleblower program and a 2010 program review report.

“We look forward to reviewing all the information and preparing a summary that we will present to our elected officials so that workers’ first amendment rights will be protected,” said Steve Schrag, co-chair of ConnectiCOSH.



Ct Council on Occupational Safety & Health

Can A Judicial Decision Be Both Right And Wrong At The Same Time? – Appealingly Brief Blog

By Dan Klau

On Monday the Connecticut Supreme Court released its unanimous decision in an important Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) case, Comm’r of Public Safety v. FOICwhich involved a 2008 request for arrests records by the New Haven Register.  The media and open government advocates, myself included, have expressed considerable disappointment with the decision, which holds that the police (both local and state) need only disclose the barest minimum of information about an arrest.  (Disclosure: I supervised several students from the Yale Law School Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic, which wrote a fantastic amicus brief in the case on behalf of a multitude of media and open government organizations.)

My purpose in writing this post is to show how the Court got the decision exactly right, and exactly wrong, at the same time. It was a close case. The way the Court went is absolutely defensible.  However, the Court could have gone the other way too.  It could have written an absolutely defensible opinion in favor of greater openness and transparency.  As a matter of public policy, such a decision would have been preferable to one that strikes the balance in favor of darkness and opacity and punts the issue back to the General Assembly.

The legal dispute revolved around a 1994 amendment to the state Freedom of Information Act, an amendment the General Assembly passed in reaction to the state Supreme Court’s decision in Gifford v. Freedom of Information Comm’n. A divided (3-2) Supreme Court held in Gifford that, during pending criminal prosecutions, law enforcement agencies’ disclosure obligations under the FOIA are governed exclusively by General Statutes § 1-215, which only requires the police to release basic “police blotter” information about an arrest, such as the name of the person arrested, date and time of arrest and nature of the offense. In simple terms, the Court held that § 1-215 established a “ceiling” on the amount of information that police have to disclose about an arrest while a criminal prosecution is pending.

In so holding, the Court rejected the position of the Freedom of Information Commission, which argued that § 1-215 established a “floor” on the amount of information that had to be released and that if the police wanted to withhold additional information about an arrest, they had to demonstrate that the information was exempt under § 1-210(b)(3).  That section permits the police to refuse to disclose information that might prejudice a prospective law enforcement action.

The legislature responded to Gifford by enacting Public Act 94-246, which amended  § 1-215.  The issue in the just-decided Supreme Court case was the meaning and effect of that amendment. For nearly twenty years, the FOIC ruled in a series of published decisions that the effect of the amendment was to overrule Gifford and to adopt the legal position for which the agency had advocated in that case.  None of those decisions were challenged on appeal. Then, in 2008, in response to a New Haven Register reporter’s request  for certain arrest records that went beyond the bare minimum that § 1-215 required released, the State Police decided to challenge the FOIC’s longstanding interpretation of the 1994 Public Act. The FOIC stood by its interpretation and directed the State Police to disclose the requested records. The State Police appealed. The trial court agreed with the State Police.  The FOIC appealed.  The Appellate Court affirmed the trial court.  The FOIC appealed again, which brings us to the Supreme Court’s latest decision.

The Supreme Court first concluded that the party’s respective interpretations of the text of the 1994 amendment were reasonable.  That is, the text of the amendment was ambiguous.  (Note: I attended the oral argument in this case and left the argument with the distinct impression that virtually every justice on the Court thought that the amendment was not ambiguous and that the plain language favored the FOIC’s position.  But judge’s questions at oral argument are frequently poor predictors of the outcome of a case.)  Reaching that conclusion meant that the Court could examine the legislative history of the 1994 amendment to help resolve the ambiguity.  That examination is what put a knife through the heart of the FOIC’s argument.

Upon reviewing the legislative history, the Court concluded that the legislature did not intend to overrule Gifford completely.  Instead, it intended to make only a minor modification to § 1-215.  That modification required the police to release one (not all) of the following in addition to the basic police blotter information: the arrest report, incident report, news release or other similar report of the arrest of a person.  (Emphasis supplied.)  The law does not specify what the news release or similar report must say.  It can say nothing beyond name, date and nature of offense.  In fact, many police departments simply issue a press release that has only that information.  Under the Supreme Court’s decision, that simple press release constitutes compliance with § 1-215.

Thus, as the law now stands, that bare minimum of information about an arrest is the only information that a police department is required to release while the matter is pending.  The police usually have a lot more information about an arrest that is of public interest, but they are not required to disclose it even if there is no risk that the disclosure would prejudice pending or prospective legal proceedings.  Some departments may be happy to release more than is absolutely required.  Many others may produce nothing beyond what is absolutely required.

That brings me to why I think the Court’s decision was “right.”  I think the text of the 1994 amendment was not ambiguous and favored the FOIC’s position, but I don’t think the Court’s contrary conclusion is irrational. So, I think it was fair for the Court to conclude that the text was ambiguous and to then consult the legislative history.  I also think that the Court’s analysis of the legislative history was solid.

That being the case, why do I think the decision was also “wrong?”  There is a well-established legal doctrine known as “legislative acquiescence.”  When courts and administrative agencies like the FOIC repeatedly and over a period of time interpret a statute in a particular way, and when the legislature does nothing to express its disagreement with that interpretation, the legislature may be deemed to have “acquiesced” to that interpretation.  The Court could have relied upon the doctrine and written a decision that said something like this:

While the legislative history supports the State Police’s interpretation of the 1994 amendment, that history, like the text of the amendment itself, is not perfectly clear.  Trying to ascertain legislative intent through legislative history is art, not science. We think that the legislature’s lack of disagreement with the FOIC’s repeated contrary interpretations over a period of nearly 20 years supports the conclusion that the legislature shares the FOIC’s interpretation.  We are reluctant to overturn nearly two decades of unchallenged, settled administrative agency precedent, particularly since that precedent enjoys strong support in public policy, which favors openness and transparency.

The doctrine of legislative acquiescence calls upon a court to exercise its judgment.  The doctrine does not compel, require or mandate a court to conclude that a legislature has acquiesced to a judicial or agency interpetation of a statute; it merely permits the court to so conclude. Unfortunately, in the case at hand the Supreme Court declined to invoke the doctrine and to adopt a position inconsistent with its analysis of the legislative history of the 1994 amendment. Ultimately, the Court concluded that the General Assembly, not the courts, was the proper forum for the parties’ debate:

Given the continuing vigorous legislative debate on open government matters both in 1994 and today, we deem balancing the various interests and articulating a coherent policy on this matter to be a uniquely legislative function. The General Assembly retains the prerogative to modify or clarify § 1-215 as it sees fit.

The Court’s conclusion is rational and defensible. My point, however, is that invoking the doctrine of legislative acquiescence also would have been rational and defensible.  Moreover, doing so would have struck the balance in an admittedly close case in favor of openness and transparency.  If the legislature disagreed with that balance, it could amend the law–just as the Supreme Court said it has the power to amend the law and expressly overrule Gifford if it wants too.

In sum, in a close case why not err in favor of openness and transparency?

Looney Vows To Fix FOI Ruling – New Haven Independent

By Paul Bass

The State Supreme Court may have had no choice but to hand cops new powers to hide information from the public. But the state legislature can take action to rein in those powers.

So said New Haven state Sen. Martin Looney in the wake of a unanimous Supreme Court ruling to withhold most information about crimes from the media, for years, without even having to explain why.

That ruling came this week in a case called Commissioner of Public Safety v. Freedom of Information Commission. The justices ruled that Derby police were justified under the law when they waited two years before giving much information to the New Haven Register about the murder of a father by his son in 2008. According to the ruling, police must give only basic “blotter” information to the media for pending crimes—the charges, the name of the accused, the date and time of arrest. They have to provide some form of “document” as well, but that can include a bare-bones “press release” with no more information. And they can continue to withhold information while a case remains “pending.” That means an unsolved case can drag on for years, or decades, without information being released.

Click here to read the decision.

It matters what Martin Looney thinks about the ruling, because he is expected to become the president of the State Senate. From that perch, he will have the most say in what matters get taken up and advanced.

Looney pointed out that the justices’ ruling hewed strictly to the current Freedom of Information law in making the decision. It didn’t weigh in on merits of philosophical arguments made by media organizations statewide, about how the law should work. That’s the legislature’s job. The legislature will do that job, Looney said.

That’s clearly something that we will need to look at next year,” Looney said.

He didn’t commit to any specifics changes he would make to the law in response to the court ruling. But he did say that “the time has come to provide for some additional disclosure.

“This case highlights the need for a new legislative review. The court invites the legislature to take another look at the issue.”

In editorials published in the ruling’s wake, newspapers argued that now police departments will escape public scrutiny of how it handles cases. The papers also suggested that they should have access to officers’ incident reports as well as mug shots and names of victims. (The Independent does not publish mug shots of accused criminals except in the case of public figures or exceptional circumstances.)

Law-enforcement agencies have argued that the release of, say, incident reports with names of witnesses or information about pending investigations can blow a case. It can also endanger the lives of witnesses or lead members of the public not to cooperate with police in the future.


Thomas MacMillan PhotoThomas MacMillan Photo

A subtler question—one that will face Looney (pictured) and his fellow legislators—is how to navigate those questions about information that can jeopardize an investigation. Under the Supreme Court ruling, the police can just declare information exempt from public view because of “pending” investigations. Looney noted that police can simply declare a case “pending” indefinitely. They don’t even have to prove that they’re actually still investigating.

That was a major issue in the 1994 gubernatorial campaign, when a local police chief refused to release information about a domestic violence complaint against a candidate with whom he was friendly, Republican John Rowland. (Rowland won the election, and two more elections after that. He rewarded a Superior Court judge, Christine Vertefeuille, who had helped kept the report secret in 1994 with a promotion to the appellate court, and then to the state Supreme Court, where she sits to this day.)

The state Freedom of Information Commission, among others, has suggested that the release of more information about crimes be made the default position of the law, with the burden or proof placed on police agencies if they wish to withhold (or redact) arrest reports or otherwise keep some information secret.

Looney said he envisions the legislature looking at “whether or not the presumption should be changed to have a presumption in favor of disclosure if police are able to raise specific objections.”

The senator cited a passing point in the justices’ 27-page ruling to demonstrate why the ball has fallen in the legislature’s court: The justices cited, as one reason for siding with the police in this case, the fate of “Senate Amendment A.” Legislators considered that amendment the last time they updated the state’s Freedom of Information statute, in 1994. The amendment that would have required the police to “disclose both the blotter information and ‘the arrest report, incident report or any similar report of the arrest of a person.’ Moreover, the Senate Amendment A did
not offer the option of a news release or make clear that the choice of which document to disclose remained in the discretion of the law enforcement agency,” Justice Richard Robinson wrote on behalf of the court.

Twenty years later, the legislature may have a chance to vote again.

Make police reports available – The Day

Monday’s state Supreme Court ruling that allows police to limit the details they release to the public about arrests is a severe blow to advocates of open government, giving law enforcement authorities far too much control over important information about crimes.

The decision would require police to provide only basic “blotter” data about arrests, such as the names and addresses of those charged with crimes, along with the dates, times and places of arrests, and a list of the charges. During pending cases they no longer would have to make available to the media and public more comprehensive police reports.

The ruling stems from a 2008 complaint by a New Haven Register reporter that state police provided scant information about a mentally ill man from Derby who tried to kill his father. The state Freedom of Information Commission sided with the reporter in ordering the release of more comprehensive reports, but police successfully challenged that decision, first in Superior Court and then in Appellate Court.

Monday’s Supreme Court decision affirming the lower court rulings throws the issue back to the state legislature, noting, “The General Assembly retains the prerogative to modify or clarify (the law) as it sees fit.” In 1994 lawmakers amended the state’s open records law to require police to release additional information, such as arrest reports, incident reports, news releases or other similar reports.

Clearly, legislators intended to make those more detailed reports available to the public. This newspaper agrees and urges state lawmakers to follow through on what the high court suggested: clarify the statute so more information about crime can flow to the public.

As always, the rights of the public to gain access to police reports must be weighed against law enforcement authorities’ need to conduct criminal investigations. We’re confident the right balance can be struck.

Editorial: Connecticut Supreme Court decision a blow to accountability – New Haven Register

In a blow to accountability and open government, the Connecticut Supreme Court Monday ruled that police statewide have to release only basic information about arrests to the public while prosecutions are pending.

The ramifications of this decision, stemming from a New Haven Register challenge of state police secrecy in 2008, could have serious implications on the public’s right to know and ability to hold law enforcement accountable.

The Associated Press and other media organizations filed a brief arguing that a ruling in favor of police would allow authorities to selectively withhold information and avoid scrutiny after arrests. Despite this, the high court unanimously sided with police.

Current state law limits disclosure of arrests to basic information like the name of a person arrested and the charges against them. Justices said in Monday’s ruling that an arrest report, news release or similar information also must be disclosed — but may not be required to do so depending on how the decision is interpreted.

Access to information could expose potential wrongdoing. It helps hold public officials accountable for their actions. This includes holding law enforcement officers — paid with taxpayer money — accountable for how they investigate major crimes.

If the media — or the public — does not gain access to detailed information until a case has been disposed of, it allows police to not only pick and choose what to release, but to have enough time to hide any potential errors or mistakes that may have been made in the course of the investigation.

These mistakes may never see the light of day.

Limiting public access makes it harder to find flaws with the entire criminal justice system.

If your relative or friend was arrested for something, wouldn’t you want to know that he or she was treated fairly and that police did everything by the book when investigating the case?

Now, we might never be able to find out if that’s true.

Criminal cases can go on for many years, like the case of Toai Nguyen, accused of killing his father and arrested in 2008. Nguyen wasn’t convicted and sentenced until 2010.

The Nguyen case was what prompted the New Haven Register to file its original complaints against the Connecticut State Police with the Freedom of Information Commission in 2008, after police refused to provide detailed information about the arrest. The case went to the FOI Commission and then to court.

The Supreme Court affirmed the Appellate Court’s decision in favor of the police.

We now count on the state’s legislators to fix this. Even the high court in its ruling implies the statute dictating releasing arrest information needs to be clarified:

“Given the continuing vigorous legislative debate on open government matters both in 1994 and today, we deem balancing the various interests and articulating a coherent policy on this matter to be a uniquely legislative function. The General Assembly retains the prerogative to modify or clarify §1-215 as it sees fit.”

We urge the state’s legislators to clarify this legislation and hold police to a higher standard.

Court to cops: OK to blackout arrests –

HARTFORD — In a ruling that could sharply limit public details on criminal arrests, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled Monday that police may release only basic information about suspects before their cases reach Superior Court.

The decision was a defeat for the state Freedom of Information Commission and, according to a Quinnipiac University professor, could result in a loss of public faith in local police, who may limit disclosure to the names of suspects and the charges against them.

The ruling, written by Associate Justice John A. Robinson, affirms an Appellate Court decision and leaves the door open for the General Assembly to renew an argument it had in 1994 over the extent of details that should be available on criminal arrests.

The case dates to March 2008, following the arrest of Toai T. Nguyen, of Shelton, who was arrested after an early afternoon attack of an elderly person on exit 17 off Route 8. He ended up pleading guilty, but the Freedom of Information Commission ordered Shelton Police to release more details on the incident.

In a 27-page decision with 35 footnotes and a recounting of House and Senate debates over a 1994 bill on public information, Robinson said that full reports on cases are not required.

“Insofar as there is no claim that the news release provided by the department did not contain a narrative sufficiently meaningful to satisfy its obligation,” Robinson wrote, “we conclude that the Appellate Court properly determined that the commission incorrectly found that the department violated the act in this case.”

One of the lawmakers quoted from the 1994 debate was then-Sen. George Jepsen, of Stamford, who is now the state attorney general.

“Given the continuing vigorous legislative debate on open government matters, both in 1994 and today, we deem balancing the various interests in articulating a coherent policy on this matter to be a uniquely legislative function,” Robinson wrote.

Colleen Murphy, executive director of the FOIC, said Monday night that she will confer with the commission and possibly develop legislative recommendations for the next General Assembly, which convenes in January.

“I think it will shut down access because of the discretion given to law enforcement,” she said of the decision. “They’re given discretion beyond some basics.”

Previously, to withhold information police had to show that it met disclosure exemptions.

“Now they can provide a name, date of offense, location and whatever narrative they want to tell,” Murphy said. “The police are allowed to create a story at their own discretion.”

Rich Hanley, associate professor at Quinnipiac University and director of its graduate journalism program, warned Monday that it will chill the media’s access to police actions — and result in public suspicion of local law enforcement.

“It’s going to backfire on the police,” he said in a phone interview. “Once this information becomes so restrictive, people won’t have the confidence that police can do their jobs. It’s going to be hard for the media or anyone else. Police can control content and that’s not how it’s supposed to be. The press release is going to say only what the police want you to read.”

Jepsen, whose office successfully argued the case for the Department of Public Safety against the FOIC, said the high court’s decision “provides needed clarity” about the extent of arrest information that can be released before trial.

“As the Supreme Court’s opinion notes, the legislative debate 20 years ago, in which I took part as a state senator, sought to strike an appropriate balance among competing interests, resulting in a compromise bill,” Jepsen said. “If policy priorities have changed, the Legislature is always free to strike a different balance.”; 860-549-4670;;;

State Supreme Court ruling restricts release of arrest information –

By Karen Florin

The state Supreme Court issued a ruling Monday that restricts the amount of information police are required to release about arrests, prompting fears among advocates of open government that the public will not have access to important information about crimes.

The unanimous decision in Commissioner of Public Safety v. Freedom of Information Commission was authored by Justice Richard A. Robinson. The court ruled that police are required only to release basic “blotter” information about arrests, including the name and address of the person arrested, the date, time and place of the arrest, the criminal charges and a news release or narrative of the arrest. Though police reports are considered public records, the police are not required to release them while a case is pending.

“It’s a great day for police departments who want to withhold information,” said attorney Daniel Klau, past president of the Connecticut Foundation for Open Government and supervisor of Yale Law School interns who filed a brief in the case on behalf of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information.

The decision means police only have to release the bare minimum about an arrest, Klau said. Other information, which may be of significant value, doesn’t have to be disclosed even if it does not in any way prejudice a law enforcement investigation, he said. Under the ruling, mug shots do not have to be disclosed, he said.

The case concerned New Haven Register reporter Michelle Tuccito Sullo’s efforts to obtain information from state police about a mentally ill man who attempted to kill his father in Derby in 2008. Sullo asked for a police report of the incident, but received only a press release containing the arrestee’s name, address and birthdate, the date, time and location of the incident and a two-paragraph description of the incident. The press release omitted key details of the case, including the victim’s name, his relationship to his attacker and where he was hospitalized.

Sullo appealed to the Freedom of Information Commission (FOIC), which upheld her complaint. The state appealed to Superior Court, where a judge ruled that the state had fulfilled its legal obligation. The FOIC took the case to the Appellate Court, which affirmed the lower court’s decision. The Supreme Court took up the case and heard oral arguments in January.

In deciding the case, the court reviewed a 1993 state Supreme Court decision in Gifford v. Freedom of Information Commission and a 1994 amendment to the state’s open records law passed by the General Assembly. The Gifford case held that law enforcement agencies must release only “police blotter” information while cases are pending. The legislative amendment required the release of additional information, such as an arrest report, incident report, news release or other similar report.

“The Supreme Court today said to the Commission, you’ve been doing it wrong for 20 years,” Klau said. “You’ve been misinterpreting what the legislature did.”

In the decision, the Supreme Court noted that balancing the various interests and articulating a coherent policy is a “uniquely legislative function.”

“The General Assembly retains the prerogative to modify or clarify (the law) as it sees fit,” the court wrote.

One of the legislators involved in the 1994 debate was now-Attorney General George Jepsen, whose office represented state police in the case. Jepsen responded to a request for comment with a written statement.

“Today’s decision provides needed clarity about the extent of law enforcement’s obligation to disclose arrest information,” the statement said. “As the Supreme Court’s opinion notes, the legislative debate 20 years ago — in which I took part as a state senator — sought to strike an appropriate balance among competing interests, resulting in a compromise bill. If policy priorities have changed, the legislature is always free to strike a different balance. I will always enforce the laws of the state of Connecticut, as is my responsibility as Attorney General.”

During oral arguments, attorney Victor R. Perpetua, arguing on behalf of the Freedom of Information Commission, had told the justices it is “never a good choice to give agencies a lot of power of unfettered discretion.” He said the FOIC was seeking to maintain the status quo in which it decides appeals in cases in which members of the media or public feel they have been wrongfully denied information.

Chief State’s Attorney Kevin T. Kane said he and others in his office are reviewing the ruling.

James H. Smith, president of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information, called Monday’s decision disappointing.

“On first reading, it seems too restrictive and I’m concerned it will lead police in too many cases to keep too much information about crimes secret,” Smith wrote in an email. “I had hoped the court was more attuned to transparency as good public policy.”

“As always, we will work with legislators to ensure as much information as possible is available to the public,” Smith said.

Klau said police departments still have discretion to release information even if it is not required.

“It very much depends on the police department,” he said. “I’m sure a PD like South Windsor would be forthcoming with a lot of this information.”

The CCFOI last month presented South Windsor Police Chief Matthew Reed with an award for his efforts to keep the public informed about crime.

But in Klau’s opinion, the decision doesn’t bode well for beat reporters covering communities like New Haven, which he said is notorious for not being forthcoming.

Also, Klau said, “My guess is that the state police will take full advantage of this ruling and will only give out absolute bare minimum except when it’s to their advantage.”

State Supreme Court wrong to let police decide how much to tell public –

The Connecticut Supreme Court fumbled in ruling this week that police can tell the public only the barest of information about a crime while a case is pending. Often, that can be years.

The unanimous (7-0) decision released Monday gives the police bald power to withhold information about a crime while leaving no recourse for the public to appeal.

In agreeing with an appellate court in the Commissioner of Public Safety vs the Freedom of Information Commission argument, the state Supreme Court sets back public access to details about crime 20 years.

Nearly every news agency in Connecticut had joined the suit as amici curiae in support of the FOI Commission and to underscore the importance of this case.

Police can release the basic “blotter” information — the name and address of the person arrested; the date, time and place of arrest; and the criminal charges — and a “news release” that can contain as much or as little detail as police wish to disclose. Anything more, as a result of the court ruling, is up to them while a case is pending.

Experience shows time and time and time again that police are reluctant to tell the public details about a crime. Their preference is to withhold, not disclose. And it’s simply less work to say no. But their motive to avoid tainting a criminal proceeding can so easily turn to secrecy.

Now, as a result of the ruling, police can withhold mug shots, race, immigration status or whether the person arrested was exercising the First Amendment right of free speech or free assembly.

Police don’t have to tell the public whether the arrestee has an extensive criminal history or whether that person is in a position of public trust.

Police don’t have to tell whether the arrestee had previously been reported to, and ignored by, the police.

Police don’t have to tell the public how a killer got the weapon.

Isn’t this important information most law-abiding citizens should have the right to know about alleged criminals in their town and state?

We agree with Colleen Murphy, the executive director of the Freedom of Information Commission, in this assessment: “Law enforcement, of course, is one of the most powerful governmental entities with the most power over its citizens.”

“That’s always a concern: Who’s watching over that?”

Right now, no thanks to the state Supreme Court, the answer is: no one.

But in its 27-page decision, the court acknowledges the “controvery that continues to this day about the relationship between criminal investigations and the public’s right to know” and it points the way for change.

Leave it up to the General Assembly to change the law, the justices said. We urge legislators to do so, with courage and commitment to public disclosure.

Open Government Advocates Lose At Supreme Court – The Hartford Courant

EDITORIAL The Hartford Courant

The cause of open government took another body blow under a unanimous state Supreme Court ruling handed down Monday.

In upholding the Appellate Court in a freedom-of-information case that originated in Shelton, the justices ruled that only the sparsest of information must be disclosed by local police departments and the state police in criminal cases from the time of arrest to the conclusion of prosecution.

This disappointing ruling gives police in a free society too much discretion and power to write the narrative of a crime by controlling information. The lack of information undermines public safety. It frustrates the public’s right to know as well as public efforts to hold police accountable.

Until now, the police were at least required to make a written case for denying requests for information.

The General Assembly must step in and restore a proper balance between the public’s various interests and the state’s interest in protecting the integrity of prosecutions. The balance now is too much in favor of the state.

The tidbits the court said police must disclose include so-called blotter information — name and address of the person arrested; the date, time and place of arrest; and the criminal charge. These disclosure requirements are already part of state law.

Police are also required to release one of the following: the arrest report, incident report, a news release or a similar document. Typically, police news releases — which most likely would be used to satisfy the court — have little information beyond what’s on the blotter.

Police will not be required to disclose such information as mug shots, details of allegations, witness statements, documentary evidence and, apparently, even the name of the victim.

Police still have the discretion to be forthcoming with information about criminal arrests beyond that required by the court decision. But experience puts a damper on hope.