E-access to public information, case I OSK 1727/09

September 4th, 2010, Tomasz Rychlicki

A Polish law firm requested the Office of the Attorney General of the State Treasury to disclose public information in the form of all unfavorable for the State Treasury decisions of common courts and the Supreme Court along with their written justifications, issued in 2008, in cases of reprivatization, in which the State Treasury was represented by the Attorney General of the State Treasury. The President of the Office of the Attorney General of the State Treasury refused and argued that the requested information has the nature of information processed, therefore, the applicant must also show particularly important public interest. The law firm filed a complaint against this decision.

The Voivodeship Administrative Court in its judgment of 23 September 2009 case file II SA/Wa 978/09 reversed the contested decision and held that legal commentators and the case-law formed the view that information deemed as simple is information that its substance does not change prior to its disclosure. However, the processed information is qualitatively new information that did not exist in the final content and form, although its source is in the materials held by the entity obliged to disclose such information. Thus, a fundamental feature that distinguishes processed public information from simple public information is that the authority does not posses processed public information, and for its production, it is necessary to carry out certain operations and activities on simple public information held by the entity, which results in the creation of the new quality of information. This new quality information is not only technically another compilation of existing information – another way of ranking previously held information, but different, qualitatively new information, usually leading to a specific assessment of the phenomenon, whether a particular interpretation, finding differences or similarities. In order to produce the processed information it is necessary to submit information under analysis, synthesis and produce in this way a new quality of information that does not result from the wording of any unit of information that was subject to processing, in general, it results from the sum of (a set of) individual pieces of information that has been processed. Therefore, the processed information does not results from a different order of possessed information, but from the new immanent quality that was obtained from the processing of new information. Only ranking and listing of judgments according to a specific criterion does not bear characteristic of processed information, but it has the nature of labor-intensive information, and creations of such information can only decide on the cost of production. Time-consuming, costly and organizational difficulties – technical or office that are associated with the creation and development of a public information cannot be treated as the exempt from the obligation to disclose of such information. Actions devoted to the necessary anonymization of the selected judgments do not constitute the production of processed information, because the anonymization process is a technical operation, as a result of which new information is not created.

The Supreme Administrative Court in its judgment of 3 August 2010 case file I OSK 1727/09 dismissed the cassation complaint filed by the President of the Office of the Attorney General of the State Treasury.

See also “Polish case law on e-access to public information“.