Birth Certificate Number Must Be Disclosed
Once information from a government record has been disclosed to the public, the issue of a person’s right to privacy is moot. The information is no longer private, and there is no legal reason to withhold the document containing that information. There is a consistent history showing this legal principle.
For instance, OIP Opinion letter 06-07 says (p. 4) that “Second, a matter no longer affects the privacy of the individual where it has been made public or has been published. Op. Att’y Gen. No. 94-01 at 7 (citing in Painting Industry of Hawaii Market Recovery Fund v. Mm, 69 Haw. 449, 746 P.2d 79 (1987)); Op. Att’y Gen. No. $649 (1986).
And following that legal principle, OIP Opinion Letter 07-07 states that, “―OIP further notes that, pursuant to statute, DOH itself discloses certain information in the vital records it maintains, and, therefore, individuals would not have a significant privacy interest in that information.”
Using the same principle, Opinion Letter 90-04 (page 6 ) points out that when the Hawaii legislature passed The Uniform Information Practices Act (UIPA) to replace the existing “Sunshine Law”, they
Intended to “grandfather in” records that had already been available to the public:
” Additionally, although the Legislature created several exceptions to mandatory public access to government records in section 92F-13, Hawaii Revised Statutes, it was “not the intent of the Legislature that this section be used to close currently available records, even though these records might fit within one of the categories in this section.” S. Conf. Comm. Rep. No. 235, 14th Leg., 1988 Reg. Sess., Haw. S.J. 689, 690 (1988).
This important point is also noted in a publication using the State of Hawaii web address at http://www.state.hi.us/lrb/par/pub/foi.pdf, which says on page 17 that ” “These exemptions, however, are not to be used to close records that were available to the public before mid-1988, the Legislature indicated (12)” The footnote cites the legislative committee meeting.
So records/information that were already available to the public before UIPA was passed are grandfathered in as open to the public. And there can be no privacy interest for information that has already been disclosed to the public or published.
And birth certificate numbers were available to the public before UIPA was passed. According to p. 11 of OIP Opinion Letter 90-23 (written in 1990) HRS 338-18 included:
“(d) Index data consisting of name, age, and sex of the registrant and date, type and file number of the vital event and such other data as the director may authorize may be made available to the public.”
If you look at HRS 338-18 now, it says there were revisions in 1949, 1955, 1959, 1967, 1977, 1991, 1997, and 2001. So what was cited in the 1990 OIP Letter had been in effect since at least 1977. That means that the date and file number for vital events were records that were available to the general public ACCORDING TO STATUTE before UIPA went into effect in 1988.
The UIPA exemptions from disclosure do not apply to those records. They are authorized for release by statutes in existence before UIPA and thus are STILL authorized for release.
And UIPA requires that any records which MAY be released MUST be released. HRS 92F-12(b)(2) says: “(b) Any provision to the contrary notwithstanding, each agency shall also disclose:… (2) Government records which, pursuant to federal law or a statute of this State, are expressly authorized to be disclosed to the person requesting access”.
So the DOH has the authority to release the birth certificate numbers and dates for certificates issued before 1988, and UIPA requires them to release whatever they are authorized by state law to release.