SUPREME COURT RULES ON DISCLOSURE OF POLICE MISCONDUCT RECORDS

Posted on Sep 20, 2016 in Featured, What's New

The state Office of Information Practices (OIP) has posted on its website a brief summary of the Hawaii Supreme Court’s June 2016 decision regarding disclosure of police suspension records under the Uniform Information Practices Act (Modified), chapter 92F, Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS) (UIPA).  In Peer News LLC v. City and County of Honolulu, 138 Haw. 53, 376 P.3d 1 (2016) (Peer News), the Supreme Court clarified its decision rendered 20 years earlier, regarding disclosure of police misconduct records in State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers v. Society of Professional Journalists, 83 Haw. 378, 97 P.2d 386 (1996) (SHOPO).

While Peer News determined that the state Office of Information Practices (OIP) was “palpably erroneous” in its 1997 interpretation of the SHOPO opinion and conclusion that the UIPA required the disclosure of suspended police officers’ disciplinary records, the Supreme Court also rejected the police union’s argument that the UIPA precluded disclosure of such records.  Moreover, the Supreme Court agreed with OIP’s analysis and balancing of interests discussed in OIP Opinion Letter Number 97-1 and other OIP decisions.  Although the case was remanded to the circuit court to conduct a case by case analysis and balancing of police officers’ privacy interests versus the public’s interest in disclosure, it appears that police suspension records may still be disclosable, depending on the egregiousness of the misconduct.  Note, too, that there is no question that misconduct records of discharged police officers are subject to disclosure under the UIPA.

For OIP’s Peer News summary, please go to the bottom of the Opinions page at oip.hawaii.gov and look under the heading for “Court Opinions,” where you will also find an updated list of citations for court opinions regarding the UIPA or Sunshine Law.  A summary of the Hawaii Supreme Court’s Sunshine Law opinion in Kanahele v. Maui County Council, 130 Haw. 228, 307 P.3d 1174 (2013), which was originally posted as a What’s New article on August 12, 2013, has also been updated and added to the Court Opinions page.

For the latest open government news, check for archived copies of What’s New articles that are posted here, or e-mailed upon request. To be added to OIP’s e-mail list, please e-mail oip@hawaii.gov.  Also, if you would like to receive What’s New articles or attachments in a Word format, please contact OIP at (808) 586-1400 or oip@hawaii.gov.