• September 4, 2014

WhisperingOne of the reasons that public entities are less efficient than private entities is that you, me, and your crazy Uncle _______ might not be part owners of private entities, but we are part owners of the our state and federal governments (and their many subdivisions). We have a say. The government is “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” And so the government’s decision-making must be out in the open with all kinds of safeguards so that we can comprehend what these enormous and powerful institutions are up to (municipal, county, state, federal governmental bodies). They are not supposed to operate in secret (unless necessary for national security, law enforcement, and so on).

The Minnesota Supreme Court has granted the petition for review in Minnesota Joint Underwriting Association v. Star Tribune Media Company, LLC. The issue: is the MJUA a “state agency” subject to the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act (MGDPA)? Is the public entitled to access to the MJUA’s business?

[C]reated…in 1986, [t]he purpose of the MJUA is to provide insurance coverage to any person or entity unable to obtain insurance through ordinary methods if the insurance is required by statute, ordinance, or otherwise required by law, or is necessary to earn a livelihood or conduct a business and serves a public purpose, including, but not limited to, liquor liability.

The MJUA is governed by a 15-member board of directors; seven board members are elected by the MJUA, and eight members are appointed by the Minnesota Commissioner of Commerce. Minn. Stat. §§ 62F.02, subd. 3, 62I.02, subd. 2 (2012).

So, is the Minnesota Joint Underwriting Association merely an “association” not subject to the MGDPA or is the MJUA a “government entity” that is subject to the MGDPA?

Don’t bother answering. You don’t know and neither do I. That’s the question that the Minnesota Supreme Court will analyze and then answer over the next several months.

I note, however, that the Court of Appeals’ analysis focused on careful statutory interpretation of word like “state agency,” “agency of the state,” and “public body.”

I would be interested in knowing just what the MJUA is, what it does, and what kind of “data” the Star Tribune was looking for — that is, a less textual inquiry and more of a policy inquiry. In other words, what is the MGDPA, why was it passed, and would it be consistent with the statute to apply it to an association like the MJUA and, specifically, to the kind of data being sought by the Star Tribune?

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