February 2, 1996
Mr. Jamel Clark
Attica Correctional Facility
Attica, NY 14011-0149
The staff of the Committee on Open Government is authorized to issue advisory opinions. The ensuing staff advisory opinion is based solely upon the information presented in your correspondence.
Dear Mr. Clark:
I have received your letter of January 17. You have sought assistance in obtaining copies of your sentencing minutes and asked what the "eight specific exempt categories" in the Freedom of Information Law are.
In this regard, enclosed is a copy of that statute. The grounds for withholding records appear in paragraphs (a) through (i) of §87(2). Based on your commentary, it appears that the best and most likely source of the records in question would be the courts in which sentencing occurred. I point out that the Freedom of Information Law pertains to agency records, and that §86(3) of that statute defines the term "agency" to include:
"any state or municipal department, board, bureau, division, commission, committee, public authority, public corporation, council, office or other governmental entity performing a governmental or proprietary function for the state or any one or more municipalities thereof, except the judiciary or the state legislature."
In turn, §86(1) defines the term "judiciary" to mean:
"the courts of the state, including any municipal or district court, whether or not of record."
Based on the foregoing, the courts and court records are outside the coverage of the Freedom of Information Law.
This is not to suggest that court records need not be disclosed, for other statutes may require or authorize the disclosure of such records. For instance, §255 of the Judiciary Law generally requires that the clerk of a court make available records in his possession. When that statute applies, a request should be directed to the clerk in possession of the records. Since you referred to "youthful offender status", I note that §720.35 of the Criminal Procedure Law provides as follows:
"Except where specifically required or permitted by statute or upon specific authorization of the court, all official records and papers, whether on file with the court, a police agency or the division of criminal justice services, relating to a case involving a youth who has been adjudicated a youthful offender, are confidential and may not be made available to any person or public or privacy agency, other than an institution to which such youth has been committed, the division of parole and a probation department of this state that requires such official records and papers for the purpose of carrying out duties specifically authorized by law."
I hope that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman