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Lynn K. Neuner and William T. Russell Jr.

The Court of Appeals issued a decision last month addressing the confidentiality of law enforcement personnel records in response to a request pursuant to New York’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). In In the Matter of New York Civil Liberties Union v. New York City Police Department, the court rejected a FOIL request by the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) for certain New York Police Department (NYPD) disciplinary records on the grounds that they are exempted from disclosure by §50-a of the Civil Rights Law. A number of bar associations and other organizations, including the New York City Bar Association and the Legal Aid Society, have criticized the broad reach of §50-a and called for its repeal. In light of the Court of Appeals’ recent 5-2 decision, it is clear that any limitation on the scope of §50-a’s protections will have to come from the legislature.

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