Torlai v. Legal Affairs Unit, State of Connecticut, Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection
The Legal Affairs Unit of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection is simultaneously required by Connecticut General Statutes §1-215 and §54-142a(e)(1), to provide all non-exempt records responsive to a request for arrest records and, also, to ensure that erased records are not inadvertently disseminated. James Torlai appealed to the Freedom of Information Commission alleging that the Legal Affairs Unit and Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection violated the Freedom of Information Act by failing to promptly comply with his request for copies of the criminal information summary for each arrest which may have also been referred to as a news release or, if unavailable, then certain information for each arrest. The FOIC found that the respondents provided 180 pages of responsive records. At the hearing, the complainant contended that the respondents had not fully complied with his request because they withheld arrest records of approximately 73 people stating that the records were erased pursuant to C.G.S. §54-142a(a) when, in fact, many had not. The complainant contended that because the respondents used solely the database accessible through the Judicial Branch's website to determine if arrest records were erased, they withheld records that should have been provided to him. The FOIC found that the respondents have access to other databases and that it is the respondents' responsibility to meet all of their statutory obligations and to determine the manner by which to do so. The FOIC found that the database on the Judicial Branch's website used by the respondents does not provide accurate information on the erasure status of arrest records, that the respondents know this and, therefore, the respondents' testimony that they provided the complainant with all non-erased records responsive to his request was not credible. The respondents failed to fully and promptly comply with the complainant's request and violated C.G.S. §1-210 and §1-212. The FOIC issued orders including for the respondents to take all appropriate measures to ensure that the complainant is provided a copy of all non-exempt and non-erased records free of charge within 10 days.