Place v. Deputy Director, State Of Connecticut, Judicial Branch, Court Operations Division, Legal Services
Any reasonable and fair standard for establishing indigence must contain, at a minimum, objective criteria for determining whether an individual is in fact indigent. Michael Place, an inmate, appealed to the Freedom of Information Commission regarding his request for records from the deputy director of the state Judicial Branch, Court Operations Division, Legal Services and commissioner of DESPP, the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection. The FOIC dismissed the complaint against the deputy director, finding that certain records requested were not maintained or were provided and other records concerning a probation office, including reports and emails, were exempt from disclosure under the 2006 Supreme Court decision in Clerk of the Superior Court v. Freedom of Information Commission, because the records did not pertain to the Judicial Branch's administrative functions. The records requested from the DESPP commissioner concerned the Connecticut Forensic Science Laboratory and laboratory records regarding the investigation and arrest of the complainant. The commissioner denied the complainant's request for a fee waiver based on indigence. A prior fee waiver request was denied with a finding that the complainant did not meet the DESPP's indigency standard because he had more than sufficient income to cover the $7.50 copy cost and that he submitted inaccurate information. The FOIC found that the complainant did not intentionally misrepresent his income but provided the information he thought was requested on the fee waiver forms. His failure to pay the $7.50 fee did not reflect a pattern of non-payment. The respondent department's indigence standard was loosely described as being met only when a person can establish an inability to meet their basic needs if forced to pay for copies. Neither the complainant, nor any other inmate, could ever be determined indigent under this standard. Even if the complainant's inmate account had a zero balance at the time of his request, his basic needs still would be met through the Department of Correction, if forced to pay for copies. The indigence standard was neither fair nor reasonable. The respondent commissioner violated C.G.S. §1-212(d)(1) by failing to waive the fees and C.G.S. §§1-210(a) and 1-212(a), by failing to promptly comply with the request. The director was ordered to strictly comply henceforth with the violated provisions.