Second Circuit Affirms Officer Disciplinary Records Should Be Made Public

February 16, 2021

Cleary Gottlieb and The Legal Aid Society filed amicus curiae briefs in the Southern District of New York and U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit supporting the City of New York’s decision to publish police officer, firefighter, and correction officer disciplinary records.

The briefs emphasized the role of the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) in ensuring public accountability and transparency in government decision making.

On February 16, 2020 the Second Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed an order from the Southern District of New York, allowing the City to publish an online database of officer disciplinary records following the repeal of NY Civil Rights Law Section 50-a. Section 50-a was repealed on June 12, 2020, after preventing the disclosure of officer disciplinary records to the public for over four decades. 

The decision, which affirmed the district court’s decision to deny a preliminary injunction, allows the release of hundreds of thousands of officer disciplinary records to the public, excepting a narrow category of records related to collective bargaining agreements.

The decision received media coverage in NBC New York, Forbes, The Gothamist, and other news outlets.

To view the amicus brief filed in SDNY, click here. To view the amicus brief filed in the Second Circuit, click here.