Marra v. Commissioner, State of Connecticut, Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection
Timely access to public records by persons seeking them is a fundamental right conferred by the Freedom of Information Act. Thomas Marra, an inmate, appealed to the Freedom of Information Commission alleging that the respondents, Connecticut's Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection and its commissioner, violated the Freedom of Information Act by denying his request for public records. The FOIC found that on May 19, 2011, Marra requested records relating to his prosecution. The respondents informed Marra that the records, estimated to be between 6,000 and 10,000 pages, would first need to be reviewed. The respondents had not reviewed any of the records nine months later at the FOIC hearing. The respondents indicated that the records would need to be reviewed by them, the Department of Correction and Department of Administrative Services. They offered no convincing reason why the records were subject to review under C.G.S. §1-210(d), pertaining to prison safety risks. The respondents' counsel saw no reason why review could not be completed in 60 days and represented that records not subject to statutory exemptions would be provided to the complainant within that 60-day period. The hearing was continued for 60 days. However, no documents were submitted to the Department of Correction for review as pledged. No evidence or argument was offered to explain why review was not commenced until nine months after the request. The FOIC concluded that the respondents' review and provision of the requested documents to the DOC was not prompt and the respondents violated C.G.S. §1-210(a).The FOIC's statutory deadline for deciding the case pursuant to C.G.S. §1-206(b)(1) was set to expire before the FOIC had the opportunity to review the completeness of the documents disclosed or the applicability of any as yet to be claimed exemptions. The FOIC will grant expedited status to a renewed complaint by Marra. The respondents were directed to forward to the DOC all documents they do not intend to withhold from the complainant, forthwith, and to continue their review. Newly reviewed records were to be forwarded to the DOC on an ongoing basis. The respondents were directed to strictly comply, henceforth, with C.G.S. §1-210(a).