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Minutes of bar examiners' meetings must be open for inspection

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Minutes of bar examiners' meetings must be open for inspection 10/05/98 MINNESOTA--The state Supreme Court in St. Paul ruled in…

Minutes of bar examiners’ meetings must be open for inspection

10/05/98

MINNESOTA–The state Supreme Court in St. Paul ruled in mid- August that previously secret minutes of Board of Law Examiners’ meetings must be open for public inspection. In response to a petition filed by law student and journalist Michael Ravnitzky, the court ruled that the public may inspect “administrative” portions of minutes from past board meetings.

Additionally, the court approved new rules declaring that board meetings must be open to the public except where the board is considering sensitive information such as examination materials, applicant information and personnel matters. However, information impinging on the privacy of bar candidates must be redacted before the records are released.

Ravnitzky made the records request while performing research for an article on possible changes to the state bar exam that he was writing for the William Mitchell School of Law newsletter, The Opinion. After his request was denied by the board, Ravnitzky filed a petition with the state Supreme Court.

Ravnitzky argued that law students and members of the public had an interest in examining the workings of the board in order to demystify the bar application process and to maintain the integrity of the bar. Furthermore, he argued, researchers and scholars may find the information contained in past minutes to be historically valuable.

The board argued that under the rules then in force, it was prohibited from releasing information other than application and examination information. However, the board agreed to present proposed rules to the Supreme Court that would allow expanded public access to board records. These rules were subsequently adopted by the court.

Following the high court’s adoption of the new rules, Ravnitzky has renewed his request to view the redacted records. (In re Petition for Order of this Court Directing the State Board of Law Examiners to Open Administrative Portions of Board Meetings and Make Administrative Portion of Board Minutes, Past and Future, Available to the Public; Petitioner: Michael Ravnitzky, pro se and Brian Bates, St. Paul)