Doe v. Alaska Superior Court

In Doe v. Alaska Superior Court (Alaska 1986) 721 P.2d 617, an obstetrician was under consideration for gubernatorial appointment to the State Medical Review Board. (Doe, supra, 721 P.2d at pp. 618-619.) Members of a right-to-life group opposing the appointment had sent letters and telegrams protesting the proposed appointment. The obstetrician was not selected. She and other doctors sued the group for libel and sought the governor's appointment file, which included the appointment letters. (Id. at p. 619.) The court held that the letters in the governor's appointment file were discoverable, although internal memoranda were protected by executive privilege if they contained advisory opinions and recommendations. (Id. at pp. 621-626.) The court rejected the contention that disclosure of the letters would have a chilling effect on petitioner's free speech rights, stating: "We ... reject petitioner's contention that the speech clause requires that such letters remain confidential because of the chilling effect disclosure may have on citizens' exercise of their free speech rights. Both state and federal courts have recognized that the strong public interest in open government and an election process free of taint justifies certain restrictions on free speech. Thus, laws requiring disclosure of campaign contributions, reporting requirements for lobbyists, conflict-of-interest reports by public officials, and open public meetings have been upheld despite the potential to chill speech." (Doe, supra, at p. 629.)