Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) v. University of Washington

884 P.2d 592
Brief Filed: 7/93
Court: Supreme Court of Washington
Year of Decision: 1994

Read the full-text amicus brief (PDF, 173KB)

Issue

Whether unfunded grant proposals submitted to a federal agency are protected from disclosure by federal preemption and the researcher's First Amendment right of academic freedom

Index Topics

Animal Research; Scientific Research (confidentiality of unfunded grant proposals)

Facts

PAWS, an animal rights advocacy group, sued under a state freedom of information act, seeking access to the unfunded research grant proposals of Gene Sackett, PhD, a researcher studying primate behavior. The trial court ordered summary judgment in favor of PAWS and ordered disclosure, but allowed the University of Washington to withhold trade secrets, and valuable research formulae, designs and data. Both sides appealed and the case was accepted for review by the Washington Supreme Court.

APA's Position

APA submitted an amicus brief arguing that: (1) the potential harm of public disclosure of unfunded grant applications far outweighed the benefit; and (2) the confidentiality of preliminary research applications cannot be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Results

The Washington Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part. It concluded that, while the records requested by PAWS were in large part protected from disclosure, the grant proposal at issue here did not come within an exemption that authorized withholding it in its entirety.