SJC reverses and remands earlier Superior Court Decision in favor of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources

In a decision issued yesterday [People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Inc. v. Department of Agricultural Resources, Docket #12207], the SJC reversed and remanded the Superior Court’s earlier judgement in favor of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, in which the Superior Court upheld the Department’s redaction of portions of departmental records relating to animal health.The SJC decision stated:

This case concerns the scope of two exemptions from the statutory definition of “public records.”  Specifically, it probes whether information, such as names, addresses, telephone numbers, and other information, contained on animal health certificates in the custody of the Department of Agricultural Resources, is subject to disclosure in response to a public records request.  A Superior Court judge determined that such information is protected from disclosure under statutory exemptions G. L. c. 4, § 7, Twenty-sixth (n) and (c), implicating, respectively, public safety and privacy.  For the reasons that follow, we vacate that order and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Noting the absence of prior cases laying out how exemptions (n) and (c) might apply to the facts of the case, the Court gave de novo review and construction of both.  Click here for the full text of the decision.