I. STATUTE -- BASIC APPLICATION

The basic purpose of the UIPA, Hawaii's revised open records law, which became effective July 1, 1989, is to afford public access to all government records unless access is restricted or closed by law. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 92F-11(a) (1996). It seeks to "[e]nhance government[] accountability" and to "[m]ake government accountable to individuals in [its] collection, use, and dissemination of information [about] them." Id. §§ 92F-2(3), (4). The UIPA complements the requirements of the Hawaii Administrative Procedure Act [HAPA], which also mandates that government agencies make information under their control available for public inspection. Id. § 91-2 (1996).

A significant constraint on the statutorily sanctioned philosophy of access comes from the Hawaii Constitution's explicit guarantees of privacy. Haw. Const. art. I, §§ 6, 7. The UIPA acknowledges that "[t]he policy of conducting government business as openly as possible must be tempered by a recognition of the right of the people to privacy . . . ." Haw. Rev. Stat. § 92F-2 (referring to Haw. Const. art. I, §§ 6, 7). The OIP often cites the UIPA's provision providing an exception to the general rule of public access based on unwarranted invasion of privacy as the reason for denying or limiting access. While the UIPA's invasion of privacy exception applies only to natural persons, id. § 92F-14(a), it accords with the HAPA provisions mandating confidentiality of agency records about individuals and entities. Id. § 91-2(b) (1996). Under the UIPA, agencies receive the effective equivalent of "privacy" protection when disclosure falls within UIPA's exception based on frustration of legitimate government purpose. Id. § 92F-13(3).

The UIPA lists three other bases that might support a denial of access to government records, see id. § 92F-13, including the most frequently cited: specific statutes or court orders. Records Not Available to Public, OIP Openline (newsletter), July 1992, at 2; Haw. Rev. Stat. § 92F-13(4) (Supp. 1999). The remaining two exceptions supporting denials of access primarily serve to protect government interests in undiscoverable materials associated with the prosecution or defense of judicial or quasi-judicial "action[s] to which the state or any county is or may be a party," Haw. Rev. Stat. § 92F-13(2); and "inchoate and draft working papers of legislative committees . . .," legislative investigative committees, and "personal files of members of the legislature," id. § 92F-13(5).