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Public Citizen v. Sorrell

Topic(s): Government Transparency – FOIA
Docket: 513-8-05 Wncv


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Under Vermont law, drug companies have to report the value and nature of gifts they give doctors and hospitals to the Vermont Attorney General. Public Citizen requested this information from the state Attorney General, who released some of the records, but withheld all records that had been stamped "trade secret" by the drug companies. Public Citizen filed suit under the Vermont Public Records Act, arguing that the withheld records did not meet the definition of a trade secret in the Public Records Act and therefore had to be disclosed. The Attorney General’s office filed a motion to dismiss the case, claiming that the Public Records Act did not apply at all to the requested records because they had been submitted under a different law. On February 9, 2006, the court denied the Attorney General’s motion, finding that the Public Records Act applies to the requested records and that the Attorney General can only withhold the requested records for being trade secrets if they meet the trade secret definition in the Public Records Act. After the court’s decision, Public Citizen settled with the drug companies, receiving redacted versions of the records.

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