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Peruta v. Freedom of Information Commission

Appellate Court of Connecticut

June 9, 2015

EDWARD A. PERUTA ET AL.
v.
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

Argued March 3, 2015

Appeal from the decision by the defendant determining that the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection was exempt from disclosing certain information pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of New Britain, where the court, Cohn, J., granted the motion to intervene as a defendant filed by the commissioner of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection; thereafter, the matter was tried to the court, Prescott, J.; judgment for the defendants, from which the plaintiffs appealed to this court.

SYLLABUS

The plaintiffs appealed to the trial court from the decision of the defendant Freedom of Information Commission dismissing their complaint in which they claimed that the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection had denied them access to certain information containing the names and addresses of persons applying for state permits to carry pistols or revolvers. The department provided the plaintiffs with certain records but redacted the applicants' names and addresses. The commission, after a contested hearing, concluded that the department did not violate the Freedom of Information Act (§ 1-200 et seq.) by redacting the names and addresses because, under the statute (§ 29-28 [d]) pertaining to permits to carry pistols and revolvers, the legislature intended to exempt from disclosure the names and addresses of persons who had applied for but had not yet received permits to carry pistols or revolvers. The trial court affirmed the commission's decision, from which the plaintiffs appealed to this court.

Held :

1. The plaintiffs could not prevail on their claim that § 29-28 (d) prohibits the disclosure of the names and addresses only of persons who have been issued permits to carry pistols or revolvers, but that the act requires the disclosure of the names and addresses of applicants for those permits: the trial court properly found that if the names and addresses of all applicants were disclosed, the process of identifying the applications that were denied would reveal those that were approved and, thus, would identify the names and addresses of permit holders, which would thwart the promise of confidentiality underlying § 29-28 (d); moreover, the commission's interpretation of § 29-28 (d) was time-tested and reasonable and, thus, was entitled to great weight by this court, as the legislature has not amended subsection (d) of § 29-28 in a manner that would suggest disagreement with the commission's interpretation.

2. The trial court properly concluded that the commission's construction of § 29-28 (d) was reasonable: contrary to the plaintiffs' claim that under the statute (§ 29-29) pertaining to information concerning criminal records of applicants for permits, authorities investigating the suitability of applicants for permits would be prevented from disclosing the names and addresses of those applicants, as it was evident that such disclosure by investigators was authorized when § 29-29 was read in harmony with the exemptions from disclosure contained in § 29-28 (d); furthermore, the plaintiffs cited no statutory or case law to support their position that the Board of Firearms Permit Examiners, the department, and the courts have ignored the commission's decisions, and § 29-28 (c), which prevents the disclosure of the home addresses of law enforcement officers, was not rendered superfluous in light of the commission's interpretation of § 29-28 (d).

Rachel M. Baird, with whom, on the brief, was Mitchell Lake, for the appellants (plaintiffs).

Kathleen K. Ross, commission counsel, with whom, on the brief, was Colleen M. Murphy, general counsel, for the appellee (named defendant).

Stephen R. Sarnoski, assistant attorney general, with whom, on the brief, was George Jepsen, attorney general, for the appellee (intervening defendant).

Alvord, Keller and Harper, Js.

OPINION

Page 76

PER CURIAM.

[157 Conn.App. 686]  The plaintiffs, Edward A. Peruta[1] and American News and Information Services, Inc., appeal from the judgment of the trial court affirming the decision of the defendant Freedom of Information Commission (commission) that dismissed the plaintiffs' complaint. The plaintiffs had filed a complaint with the commission claiming that the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (department)[2] improperly denied them access to information contained in pending applications for temporary state permits to carry pistols or revolvers. On appeal, the plaintiffs claim that the court erroneously construed General Statutes § 29-28 when it concluded that the names and addresses of those applicants were exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (act), General Statutes § 1-200 et seq. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

The following factual and procedural background is relevant to our consideration of the plaintiffs' claim on appeal. On January 4, 2012, the plaintiffs sent the department an e-mail requesting " [p]rompt [a]ccess to any and all computerized information ([n]ame and [t]own) regarding pending requests for State and [157 Conn.App. 687] National Criminal History Records checks that have yet to be submitted to the FBI CJIS for [p]ermit to [c]arry [p]istols or [r]evolvers by individuals who have not yet been issued or are not in possession of a [s]tate [p]ermit to [c]arry [p]istols or [r]evolvers. This request is for the name of the individual who is the subject of the request and the name of the submitting issuing authority only." The department interpreted the plaintiffs' communication to be a request for the names and addresses of all pistol permit applicants whose applications were pending while state criminal background checks and federal fingerprint checks were being performed. The department provided the plaintiffs with a list of the requested records on January 18, 2012, but it redacted the applicants' names and addresses.

On January 20, 2012, Peruta filed a complaint with the commission challenging the redaction of the names and addresses of the individuals with pending permit applications. The commission held a contested case hearing on June 21, 2012. In its final decision dated November 14, 2012, the commission, referring to two of its previous decisions, concluded that the department did not violate the ...


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