Germain v. Town of Manchester
A reasoned interpretation of C.G.S. §1-212(g) of the Freedom of Information Act is that it allows for the use of hand-held scanners to copy public records under the conditions set forth in the statute and the common meaning of the term "hand-held" did not include the plaintiff's flatbed scanner. Thomas Germain operates a title search company. In 2002, after the enactment of C.G.S. §1-212(g), Germain began using a portable flatbed scanner to copy land records in the town clerk's office in Manchester. In 2009, the town clerk informed Germain that he could no longer use his flatbed scanner because it was not considered a "hand-held scanner" within the meaning of C.G.S. §1-212(g). Germain appealed to the Freedom of Information Commission which found that the use of a flatbed scanner would likely leave a mark or impression on the record as disallowed by the statute and that the plaintiff's flatbed scanner was not a hand-held scanner within the meaning of the statute. After the dismissal of his complaint, Germain appealed to the trial court which dismissed his appeal. Germain appealed claiming, first, that the trial court improperly interpreted C.G.S. §1-212(g) to limit the permissible type of scanner that can be used to copy public documents to a scanner that is held in the hand and dragged across the page being copied to the exclusion of any other battery operated scanner. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. The plaintiff argued that regardless of the appearance of the word "hand-held" in the statute, because his portable flatbed scanner met the other criteria set forth in C.G.S. §1-212(g), his scanner qualified as a "hand-held scanner." Under the plaintiff's interpretation of C.G.S. §1-212(g), the Appellate Court noted, the word "hand-held" was, in effect, written out of the statute. This strained interpretation was not reasonable in light of the plain and unambiguous text of the statute. The plaintiff also unsuccessfully claimed that the court improperly deferred to the commission's interpretation of the statute and improperly determined that the FOIC appropriately and reasonably overruled its 2004 decision in Kreutzer v. Assistant Dean, Administration & Special Projects.