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National Council of Teachers Quality, Inc. v. Curators of the Univ. of Missouri

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Fourth Division

August 26, 2014

NATIONAL COUNCIL OF TEACHERS QUALITY, INC., Appellant,
v.
CURATORS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI, Respondent

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF BOONE COUNTY. THE HONORABLE KEVIN CRANE, JUDGE. ALL CONCUR.

John Campbell, St. Louis, MO, Counsel for Appellant.

Erich Vieth, St. Louis, MO, Co-Counsel for Appellant.

Alicia Campbell, St. Louis, MO, Co-Counsel for Appellant.

Paul Maguffee, Columbia, MO, Counsel for Respondent.

BEFORE DIVISION FOUR: JAMES E. WELSH, CHIEF JUDGE, PRESIDING, LISA WHITE HARDWICK, JUDGE AND KEVIN HARRELL, SPECIAL JUDGE.

OPINION

LISA WHITE HARDWICK, JUDGE

Page 724

The National Council for Teacher Quality (the " NCTQ" ) brought this action against the Curators of the University of Missouri (the " University" ) to compel the University to disclose course syllabi under Missouri's Sunshine Law. The circuit court found for the University, determining that the requested syllabi were exempted from disclosure under the Sunshine Law by the Federal Copyright Act, and this appeal followed. For reasons explained herein, the judgment of the circuit court is affirmed.

Factual and Procedural History

The NCTQ is a private non-profit " policy and research organization that's working towards making sure that every child has an effective teacher." On June 29, 2012, the NCTQ submitted a request to the University, pursuant to the Sunshine Law, § 610.010 et seq.,[1] asking the University to produce various records, including " syllabi that students actually receive from their professors." In response, the University disclosed some of the requested documents but withheld the requested syllabi on the basis that the syllabi were exempt from disclosure under the Sunshine Law.

On October 1, 2012, the NCTQ filed a two-count Petition against the University. Count I asked the court to compel production of the course syllabi. Count II asked the court to impose civil penalties and attorneys' fees upon the University for knowingly and purposefully violating its obligations to provide access to public records, pursuant to Section 610.027.

On June 21, 2013, the circuit court held a hearing at which both parties presented evidence. On July 17, 2013, the court entered its Order and Judgment, finding for the University and, thus, denying the NCTQ access to the requested syllabi. The NCTQ appeals.

Additional facts will be provided as necessary during our analysis of the NCTQ's points on appeal.

Page 725

Standard of Review

On review of this court tried case, we must affirm the circuit court's judgment unless it is not supported by substantial evidence, it is against the weight of the evidence, or it erroneously declares or applies the law. Murphy v. Carron, 536 S.W.2d 30, 32 (Mo. banc 1976). We view the evidence and inferences in a light most favorable to the judgment and disregard all contrary ...


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