Thomas More Society attorneys have filed a notice of appeal seeking a reversal of a Preliminary Injunction issued in November by the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, at Seattle.
The lower court decision, if allowed to stand, would have a chilling effect on transparency in government – allowing publicly funded organizations to heavily redact materials that, until now, have been considered open public records. The appeal, filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, aims to avert this threat to the public’s right to know how their tax money is being spent.
The case involves a group of University of Washington employees, and abortion clinic personnel corresponding with them who do not want their job titles and work locations disclosed, in connection with fetal tissue research and transfer of aborted body parts at the UW’s Birth Defects Research Laboratory. The university and lab were the recipients of a public records request by David Daleiden, who sent such requests to public entities across the country, as part of his investigation into the illegal trafficking of fetal tissue and organs by Planned Parenthood. The group of public employees and abortion clinic personnel responded by seeking restraining orders and court injunctions to stop the records release.
“The implications of this case are far-reaching,” explained Peter Breen, Thomas More Society Special Counsel. “These records relate to government programs, performed by government employees, on government computers. Public employees and institutions have a responsibility to be accountable and transparent about how taxpayer money is being used. They have no right to scrub their records of key information or to otherwise hide the work they are doing from the very public they are supposed to be serving.”
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Breen added, “Our client, David Daleiden, was willing to receive the requested open records with the names removed, despite no legal requirement that he do so, in order to expedite the release of the records. These public employees and abortion clinic personnel responded with legal action, in order to frustrate Mr. Daleiden’s investigation and keep their activities out of the public eye.”