Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association v. Milwaukee Board of School Directors
Wisconsin Supreme Court
596 N.W.2d 403 (1999)
In 1995 the Milwaukee Board of School Directors (MBSD) (defendant) conducted a district-wide criminal-background check of its current employees. The background check revealed that 548 employees had criminal records. The school district then released the names and criminal records of its employees to the Journal Sentinel, Inc., a local news agency. As a result of the background check, 18 employees were terminated or resigned under the threat of termination, including the seven individuals identified as James Roes 1-5 and Jane Roes 1-2 (collectively, the school employees) (plaintiffs). A reporter from the Journal Sentinel filed a request under Wisconsin’s open-records law, seeking the personnel records of the school employees. A representative from the school district’s human-resources department notified the school employees of his intent to release the documents unless they sought de novo judicial review. The Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association (MTEA) (plaintiff) and the school employees jointly filed an action to prevent the release of their personnel records in order to protect their personal privacy interests. The circuit court held that de novo judicial review was limited to situations involving records custodians who were district attorneys, not school-district employees, and dismissed the action. MTEA and the school employees filed an appeal, and the court of appeals reversed the circuit court’s determination and remanded the matter with directions for the circuit court to engage in a de novo review and conduct a balancing test to determine whether the records should be released. The MBSD filed an appeal.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Crooks, J.)
Concurrence (Bablitch, J.)
Dissent (Abrahamson, C.J.)
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