Takes Position Against Transparency Laws and Openness In Government
The Regents of the University of California has moved the court seeking to intervene in a lawsuit brought by California Parents for the Equalization of Educational Materials (CAPEEM) and three parents of California schoolchildren. The Regents’ Motion calls for treating professors as a special category of people whose emails should be entitled to blanket protection and secrecy even when such emails involve the participation of professors in governmental processes and their collusion with government officials. According to their brief filed in the Federal Court in San Francisco, it would violate the “academic freedom” of professors if they were not permitted to keep their communications related to work with government agencies a secret.
CAPEEM and three co-plaintiffs filed their lawsuit in February 2017 challenging the California’s History-Social Science curriculum which they said violated their religious rights under the Constitution. The current dispute arose during the Discovery phase of the lawsuit. The plaintiffs issued several subpoenas resulting in one professor from the University of Wisconsin turning over documents designated “Confidential.” The plaintiffs asked the court to remove the designation, after which the Regents of the University of California filed their Motion opposing the plaintiffs.
The plaintiffs will ask the court to go through every document page by page and determine whether they truly relate to research and scholarship, which courts sometimes protect, or the communications are simply activism by the professors to influence public policy. “We do not believe the documents the University of Wisconsin considers confidential are the type that courts have protected in order to encourage progress in scholarship,” said Glenn Katon, an Oakland-based civil rights attorney who represents the plaintiffs.
“If University of California is successful in its efforts, it will send a signal to government officials around the country that they can act without accountability and conduct their processes in secrecy, as long as they use a few professors as a smokescreen for their backroom deals. This could render all sunshine laws moot,” said Arvind Kumar, Director of CAPEEM.
The plaintiffs intend to fight the University of California’s Motion. CAPEEM is a non-profit organization representing parents in California whose children are affected by California’s public school curriculum and is run by unpaid volunteers, while the University of California is backed by hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money.
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