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Anctil v. Department of Corrections

Supreme Court of Maine

December 19, 2017

STEVE ANCTIL
v.
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS

          Submitted On Briefs: November 29, 2017

          Steve Anctil, appellant pro se.

          Janet Mills, Attorney General, and Kelly L. Morrell, Asst. Atty. Gen., Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, for appellee Department of Corrections et al.

          Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, JABAR, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          JABAR, J.

         [¶l] Steve Anctil appeals from the judgment of the Superior Court (Kennebec County, Stokes, J.) upholding the redactions made by the Department of Corrections in certain documents it sent to Anctil pursuant to Anctil's Freedom of Access Act (FOAA) request. 1 M.R.S. §§ 400-414 (2016).[1]On appeal to this Court, Anctil argues that the Department's redactions were improper. Because select portions of the produced documents were improperly redacted and select portions of the produced documents were properly redacted, we vacate in part and affirm in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] The procedural facts are taken from the trial court record.[2] See Hughes Bros. v. Town of Eddington, 2016 ME 13, ¶ 2, 130 A.3d 978.

         [¶3] In September of 2015, Anctil sent a letter to the Department requesting, pursuant to FOAA,

a copy of any and all records regarding any and all complaints, charges and accusations that are not classified as confidential and resulted in disciplinary action, as well as any other information or materials that are not classified as confidential and resulted in disciplinary action for the following past and present Maine Department of Corrections - Corrections Officers.

         Anctil's letter listed almost thirty employees of the Maine State Prison or the Department about whom he was requesting the above information. The Department produced sixteen documents, but redacted portions of some documents that it determined were confidential pursuant to 34-A M.R.S. § 1216 (2016) and 5 M.R.S. § 7070 (2016).

         [¶4] On March 28, 2016, Anctil filed an appeal in the Superior Court pursuant to 1 M.R.S. § 409(1), challenging the Department's redactions of the requested records. Specifically, Anctil challenged the redactions in the documents labeled "PRODUCED0001, " "PRODUCED0005, " "PRODUCED0006, "[3] "PRODUCED0007, " and "PRODUCED0012" (all redacted documents hereafter referred to by number). After an in camera inspection of the documents, the court issued a decision on February 27, 2017, stating that it was "satisfied that the material withheld from the Plaintiff was properly redacted because that material was designated confidential by statute" and finding that the redaction of the documents was "for just and proper cause" pursuant to 1 M.R.S. § 409(1). On March 17, 2017, Anctil timely appealed to us. See 14 M.R.S. § 1851 (2016); M.R. App. P. 2 (Tower 2016).[4]

         II. DISCUSSION

         [¶5] "In reviewing whether a government entity complied with the FOAA, we review factual findings for clear error, but review the trial court's interpretation of the FOAA de novo." Hughes Bros.,2016 ME 13, ¶2l, 130 A.3d 978 (citation omitted). "When interpreting a statute, we accord its words their plain meaning." Id. (quotation marks omitted). "The exceptions to the Act's disclosure requirement are strictly construed to promote the Act's underlying policies and ...


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