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ESPN submitted a request under FOIA asking Michigan State University to provide incident reports involving a list of 300 student-athletes. The University produced the records, but redacted the names and identifying information of the suspects, victims, and witnesses. As authority for its decision, the University cited the privacy exemptions set forth in MCLS § 15.243(1)(a).
The Court of Appeals of Michigan held that the disclosure of the names of the student-athletes did not constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of privacy. The public's interest in understanding how the University's police department handles criminal investigations involving student-athletes outweighed their privacy interests and favored disclosure. In order to determine whether the student-athletes were treated differently from the general student population, it was necessary to know the student-athlete's name and the nature of the allegations involved in the investigation.
ESPN has not challenged the trial court's determination that the privacy exemption applies to the names and identifying information of the victims and witnesses.
For further reading, Lexis.com subscribers can access the opinion at ESPN, Inc. v. Mich. State Univ., 2015 Mich. App. LEXIS 1606 (Mich. Ct. App. Aug. 18, 2015). Lexis Advance subscribers can find the opinion here: ESPN, Inc. v. Mich. State Univ., 2015 Mich. App. LEXIS 1606.
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