Connecticut Supreme Court Upholds Public Meeting Law #cmm457

The Connecticut Supreme Court on Monday upheld decisions by both a lower court and the Freedom of Information Commission that the Medical Examining Board had held an illegal closed-door meeting.

According to CTNewsJunkie.com, the board held a non-public meeting in 2009 to obtain legal advice about a letter it received from Public Defender Michael Courtney. The letter sought information about whether a physician could be punished for administering a lethal injection during an execution.

The public defender also sent a letter to Assistant Attorney General Thomas Ring, warning that there may be a conflict of interest if he represents the board while it weighs the request for a ruling on the lethal injection issue.

In response to that letter, the board conducted an executive session on February 17, 2009. During their five-minute session, the board sought legal advice regarding it.

The question before the court was whether the executive session should have been public.

The Medical Examining Board maintained that it was justified in its private meeting because the session discussed confidential legal information that would normally be subject to attorney-client confidentiality.

The Freedom of Information Law allows for private meetings between government agencies and attorneys if the meeting is in direct response to impending legal action.

The Freedom of Information Committee, however, found that Courtney’s letter did not imply impending legal action and the Supreme Court agreed. The court maintained that the letter was noting a potential conflict of interest and suggesting a course of action.

The court ruled that the board violated the Freedom of Information law, and ordered the board to comply with it in the future.

The board never actually ruled on the request to determine whether physicians should be punished for assisting in lethal injections.

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