Posted on May 28, 2002 in Formal Opinions

Opinion Letter No. 02-03
May 28, 2002
Records Protected from Disclosure by Court Order

A litigant asked the OIP to opine on the issue of whether a person can access a record maintained by a State or county agency when the record is sealed by a court order.

In the process of discovery in the lawsuit, the litigant had subpoenaed records from the Honolulu Police Department. The Corporation Counsel had filed a motion to quash (suppress) the subpoena, and a judge entered an order limiting the litigant’s access to the records.

The OIP determined that under the Uniform Information Practices Act (Modified), chapter 92F, Hawaii Revised Statutes (“UIPA”), the records are not subject to disclosure. Whether the records sought were government records (information maintained by an agency), or personal records (information about an individual maintained by an agency), there is an exception to the affirmative duty to disclose government records where there is a court order protecting those records, and an exception to the required access to a personal record were so authorized by a judicial decision.

The OIP noted that the UIPA and the discovery process are two distinct methods of obtaining access to documents, and that the UIPA does not require government records to be disclosed if a judge determined they are exempted. Therefore, in order to obtain access to the records, the litigant would have to follow procedures as required by court rules.

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