A civil case over whether Missouri's open records law covers agencies that contract with the state and use state money for projects is headed back to Cole County Court.
In a Tuesday ruling, the appeals court reversed and remanded a decision by Cole County Presiding Judge Pat Joyce in this case.
Aaron Malin, of Columbia, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, brought the action against the Missouri Association of Community Task Forces ("ACT Missouri") after ACT Missouri refused to produce records in 2015 under the Missouri Sunshine Law.
Malin appealed Joyce's ruling granting summary judgment in favor of ACT Missouri based on her finding that ACT Missouri was not a quasi-public governmental body under state statute and was therefore not required to provide Malin with documents.
At the time, Malin was working for a group working on laws to allow free use of marijuana in Missouri. Malin asked for copies of documents related to ACT Missouri's annual Prevention Conference in 2014 where they reportedly discussed "Marijuana Proponent Strategies."
Malin argued Joyce had misapplied the law in finding that ACT Missouri was not a quasi-public governmental body.
In their decision, the appeals court noted there is provision in state statute that would indicate ACT Missouri is not a quasi-public governmental body.
However, the appeals court also noted that to determine whether an organization's "primary purpose" is to "enter into contracts with public governmental bodies, or to engage primarily in activities carried out pursuant to an agreement or agreements with public governmental bodies" under section 610.010(4)(f)(a) of the Revised Statutes of Missouri, courts are not limited to the statement of purpose contained in the organization's articles of incorporation. A court may also consider present and historical activities of the entity, any relationship the entity has with public governmental bodies, the governing structure of the organization, and any other aspects of the organization's existence or operations that might shed light on its primary purpose.
The appeals court said Joyce misapplied the law when she relied solely on the statement of purpose in ACT Missouri's articles of incorporation in determining ACT Missouri was not a quasi-public governmental body.