Brown v. Guard Publishing Co.

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Law
  • Date Filed: 12-17-2014
  • Case #: A149933
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Duncan, P.J. for the Court; Haselton, C.J.; & Lagesen, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

Under ORS 192.410, a public records request is only exempt from disclosure when there is enough specificity about the contents of the contract to determine whether all of the information within it was exempt from disclosure; it does not protect other material in the contract that may be reasonably severed from the exempt material.

Guard Publishing Company (Register-Guard) appealed a judgment that declared an entire energy purchase contract (hereinafter “the contract”) between the Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB) and Seneca Sustainable Energy, LLC (Seneca) exempt from disclosure. This matter was initiated when Register-Guard submitted a public records request for the contract. EWEB denied the records request and brought an action for injunctive and declaratory relief to establish that the entire contract was exempt under Oregon’s public records laws. ORS 192.502 “exempts from disclosure certain "[s]ensitive business, commercial or financial information" furnished to or developed by a public body who, like EWEB, is engaged in the business of providing electricity, if "disclosure of the information would cause a competitive disadvantage for the public body or its retail electricity customers."” The trial granted summary judgment in favor of EWEB and Seneca on the grounds that the contract was exempt from disclosure under ORS 192.502(26). On appeal, the Court held that the lower court erred in granting summary judgment. The Court reasoned that ORS 192.502(26) only protects information in the contract that satisfies the requirements of the exemption, however it does not protect other material in the contract that can be reasonably severed from the exempt material. Reversed and remanded.

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