e-Journal Summary

e-Journal Number : 39965
Opinion Date : 07/16/2008
e-Journal Date : 07/17/2008
Court : Michigan Supreme Court
Case Name : Michigan Fed'n of Teachers & Sch. Related Pers. v. University of MI
Practice Area(s) : Freedom of Information Act, School Law
Judge(s) : Young, Jr., Taylor, Cavanagh, Corrigan, and Markman; Concurring in part, Dissenting in part - Kelly and Weaver
Full Text Opinion
Issues:

Whether the home addresses and telephone numbers of defendant-U of M employees sought through a FOIA request were exempt from disclosure under FOIA's "privacy" exception; MCL 15.243(1)(a); Kestenbaum v. Michigan State Univ.; Swickard v. Wayne County Med. Exam'r; Bradley v. Saranac Cmty. Sch. Bd. of Educ.; The "core purpose" test; Mager v. Department of State Police; United States Dep't of Def. v. Federal Labor Relations Auth.; Herald Co. v. Bay City; "Information of personal nature"; "Public disclosure of the information would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of an individual's privacy"

Summary

Concluding employees' home addresses and telephone numbers meet both prongs of FOIA's "privacy" exception because the information is "of a personal nature" and its disclosure would constitute a "clearly unwarranted invasion of an individual's privacy," the court held the defendant-U of M employees' home addresses and telephone numbers were exempt from disclosure pursuant to the plaintiff's FOIA request. The plaintiff-Michigan Federation of Teachers submitted a FOIA request to defendant's chief FOIA officer seeking numerous items of information defendant possessed regarding every U of M employee. The information sought included first and last names, job title, compensation rate, work address, and telephone number. Two more items of information were also sought, which were the subject of the appeal - the employees' home addresses and telephone numbers. Defendant timely responded with nearly all the information requested. As to the home addresses and telephone numbers, defendant released the information of 20,812 employees who had given it their permission to publish their home addresses and telephone numbers in its faculty and staff director. Defendant did not turn over the home addresses and telephone numbers of the remaining 16,406 employees who withheld permission to publish that information in the directory. Defendant denied in part the FOIA request, relying on the privacy exemption. The trial court granted defendant's motion for summary disposition. The Court of Appeals relying on Bradley reversed, holding the home addresses and telephone numbers were not "information of a personal nature." In its analysis, the court reexamined the definition of "information of a personal nature" in Bradley and concluded it unnecessarily limited the intended scope of the phrase, and revised the definition to include information of an embarrassing, intimate, private, or confidential nature. The court held employees' home addresses and telephone numbers were information of an embarrassing, intimate, private, or confidential nature. Disclosure of the information would constitute a "clearly unwarranted invasion of an individual's privacy" in this case primarily because the core purpose of the FOIA would not be advanced by its disclosure to plaintiff. The court reversed the Court of Appeals decision and reinstated the trial court's grant of summary disposition to defendants.

The dissenting justices agreed the unlisted home addresses and telephone numbers of employees who refused to give the defendant permission to publish the information were exempt from disclosure, but believed the information individuals allowed to be published was not exempt, and dissented from the majority opinion where it held the home addresses and telephone numbers of all defendant's employees were exempt from disclosure. The justices agreed with the majority's decision to expand Bradley's interpretation of the privacy exemption to provide private information is of a "personal nature." But they did not believe the home addresses and telephone numbers of all the employees fell within the terms of the exemption. The justices would hold the home addresses and telephone numbers of employees whose telephone numbers are unlisted and who have not allowed defendant to publish the information were exempt, but defendant must disclose the home addresses and telephone numbers of its other employees.

Full Text Opinion