A California Court of Appeal recently affirmed the lower court's decision to deny the release of documents relating to academic research under the "catch-all" exemption of the California Public Records Act ("CPRA"). SeeHumane Society of the United States v. Superior Court of Yolo County (Regents of the University of California), filed March 27, 2013, C067081. Under the "catch-all" exemption, a court balances whether the public interest is better served by releasing or withholding the documents. Here, the court relied almost exclusively on the balancing test as the basis for withholding the documents, which is uncommon in court decisions analyzing the CPRA.
In this case, the Humane Society of the United States ("HSUS") sued to obtain records from the University of California Regents ("Regents") relating to research leading to a published study by the University's Agricultural Issues Center. The Regents objected to releasing the records, claiming they consisted of preliminary data, prepublication thoughts, conversations and informal exchanges of ideas among researchers. The Regents argued that the public interest would be better served by allowing researchers to engage in informal discussions and brainstorming.