Legal Memorandum: Restriction of Access to Documents in MN

Issue: Does the NTSB have the authority to restrict or prohibit access to documents that would otherwise be open to public view under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act?

Area of Law: Administrative Law, Administrative Law & Regulation (Federal and State)
Keywords: Access to documents; Nonpublic; Restrict or prohibit
Jurisdiction: Federal, Minnesota
Cited Cases: 840 F. Supp. 100; 461 N.W.2d 726; 683 N.W.2d 274; 686 N.W.2d 27; 682 F.2d 256; 658 N.W.2d 876; 499 N.W.2d 509; 819 F.2d 1471
Cited Statutes: Minn. Stat. § 13.03, subd. 1; Minn. Stat. § 13.01, subd. 1; 49 U.S.C. § 1131(a)(1)(B); 49 C.F.R. § 831.2(b) (2006); 49 U.S.C. § 1101; 49 C.F.R. § 831.4 (2006); 49 U.S.C. § 1114; 49 C.F.R. § 831.6(a); 49 C.F.R. § 831.6(b); 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7); 49 C.F.R. § 831.13(a) (2006); § 831.13(b)
Date: 11/01/2007

According to both the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act (the "Act" or "MGDPA"), and federal statutes and regulations, the NTSB’s authority is quite broad to designate certain data “nonpublic” and thereby inaccessible to the public. 

The MGDPA provides, “All government data collected, created, received, maintained or disseminated by a government entity shall be public unless classified by statute, or temporary classification pursuant to section 13.06, or federal law, as nonpublic or protected nonpublic.”  Minn. Stat. § 13.03, subd. 1 (emphasis added).*FN1  The Act establishes a presumption that Minnesota’s government data are public, and that such data are accessible by the public for inspection and copying absent a classification as nonpublic.  Id., § 13.01, subd. 3; Westrom v. Minn. Dep’t of Labor & Indus., 686 N.W.2d 27, 33 (Minn. 2004); Star Tribune Co. v. Univ. of Minn. Bd. of Regents, 683 N.W.2d 274, 279-80 (Minn. 2004); Nw. Publ’ns, Inc. v. City of Bloomington, 499 N.W.2d 509, 510 (Minn. Ct. App. 1993).  “The structure of the Data Practices Act generally makes data possessed by identified entities public data, unless the [A]ct provides otherwise.  Thus, specific categories of data are expressly addressed in the [A]ct in order to create exceptions to the general rule of public availability.”  Star Tribune, 683 N.W.2d at 279-80 (citation omitted).  Even material that is not physically in the possession of the government entity constitutes government data under the Act if it was created […]

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