Washington Law Review


In its 1997 decision Newman v. King County, the Supreme Court of Washington created a categorical exemption for open police files under the Public Disclosure Act (PDA). The court reasoned that if a police file was open, its confidentiality was necessarily "essential for effective law enforcement," and thus came within an exemption from disclosure. As a result of the court's decision, law enforcement agencies need only assert that an investigation is active in order for the public record to be exempt. This Note argues that the majority's broad and abstract opinion is contrary to the law and facts of Newman. Rather, the dissent correctly applied the Act's plain language requiring a court to analyze whether an individual record actually comes within an exemption.

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