State Assembly members have a policy of refusing to provide electronic copies of files, instead printing them out and demanding that requesters travel to Madison to obtain them. Along with four other organizations concerned about government transparency, we filed an amicus brief in a case challenging that practice.
The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction issued first preliminary, and then final, federal report cards for the Every Student Succeeds Act to every school district in the state. DPI insisted that school districts “embargo” the report cards and keep them hidden from the public for months, in direct violation of the Open Records Law. DPI didn’t turn over the records it had on the subject, either, so we sued in order to obtain the records.
Wisconsin school districts often form committees to review book selections for libraries and literature classes. Appleton Area School District didn’t hold those committee meetings in public, however, and we filed suit. The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that the district violated the Open Meetings Law.
Wisconsin law requires custodians to respond to record requests “as soon as practicable and without delay.” We sued the Madison Police Department when it delayed responding to a simple record request for over 400 days. It immediately turned over the records.
In response to a 7th Circuit decision, overcautious law enforcement departments around the state started redacting basic information from incident reports and citations – information like who committed the crime. We filed a lawsuit and obtained a favorable settlement where the Jefferson Country Sheriff’s Department turned over unredacted records related to an incident where a women vandalized a GOP booth at the county fair.
State Senator Jon Erpenbach redacted the names of hundreds of people who contacted him regarding Act 10 from emails he produced in response to a records request. We sued and obtained a published decision from the Wisconsin Court of Appeals requiring him to release the names of public employees who wrote him.
The University of Wisconsin refused to turn over course syllabi and other documents in response to a records request. We filed a lawsuit, and obtained a settlement in which our clients were able to obtain everything they needed for their research into university education programs.
The Milwaukee County Board took up decennial redistricting at a public meeting without putting it on the agenda. In our first case (and our first victory) we obtained a declaration that they violated the Open Meetings Law in doing so.
The Milwaukee County Board voted in closed session to authorize collective bargaining (illegally, under Act 10), and travelled to Madison en masse to speak at a legislative hearing on a bill affecting the Board’s authority. We sued, arguing that both incidents violated the Open Meetings Law, but the judge disagreed.
The Baldwin-Woodville School District’s Board of Education went into closed session and voted to pay Christmas bonuses (essentially in lieu of pension and insurance payments the district could no longer make under Act 10). We filed an open meetings complaint with the Attorney General pointing out that the meeting was illegal, and he agreed.
Sometimes we need to file a suit on our own behalf. The Milwaukee Public Schools were unreasonably delaying responding to a records request. They turned the records over the day after we sued them.
The U.S. DOJ ignored a FOIA request WILL filed in January 2016 for over 13 months. We were seeking records regarding their fruitless investigation into alleged discrimination by choice schools. After we filed a lawsuit seeking to compel release of those records, they finally turned them over.
The Wisconsin Assembly has a policy of printing out electronic records and charging requesters on a per-page basis instead of simply sending the files electronically or putting them on a CD or flash drive. We sued Representative Jonathan Brostoff when he tried to charge us over $3,000 for paper copies of emails, arguing that this practice violates the Open Records Law. He turned over the records, waived charges, and paid us our attorney fees.
Wisconsin law requires custodians to turn over requested records “as soon as practicable and without delay.” We sued Milwaukee Alderman Russell W. Stamper, II when he refused to produce records – or even explain his delay – for over six months.
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