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South Carolina Lottery Commission v. Glassmeyer

Court of Appeals of South Carolina

July 31, 2019

South Carolina Lottery Commission, Respondent,
v.
George S. Glassmeyer, Appellant. Appellate Case No. 2016-001112

          Submitted September 19, 2018

          Appeal From Richland County L. Casey Manning, Circuit Court Judge.

          Andrew Sims Radeker and Taylor Meriwether Smith, IV, of Harrison, Radeker & Smith, P.A., of Columbia, both for Appellant.

          Karl Smith Bowers, Jr., of Columbia, for Respondent.

          THOMAS, J.

         George Glassmeyer appeals the circuit court's order granting declaratory and injunctive relief in this Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) case. On appeal, Glassmeyer argues the circuit court erred by (1) failing to address his counterclaims, (2) entering judgment on the pleadings, (3) finding the South Carolina Lottery Commission (SCLC) had standing to bring the action, and (4) failing to grant his motion to dismiss. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.

         On March 31, 2014, Glassmeyer submitted a FOIA request to SCLC for information related to any claims for any South Carolina lottery prize equal to or greater than one million dollars in gross proceeds from March 1, 2013, to March 20, 2014. Specifically, Glassmeyer requested (1) the claimants' full names, (2) the claimants' complete addresses, (3) the claimants' telephone numbers, (4) the gross dollar amount of the claims, (5) the dates of the claims, and (6) a copy of any form of identification SCLC obtained from the claimants. On April 1, 2014, SCLC mailed letters to the claimants who were affected by the FOIA request. Many of the claimants objected to the release of their personal information and filed complaints against SCLC. On April 4, 2014, one of the claimants, "John Doe," requested the circuit court to grant a permanent injunction enjoining SCLC from disclosing Doe's name, address, telephone number, amount of claim, date of claim, and any forms of identification obtained for the claim.[1]

         SCLC then responded to Glassmeyer's request on April 16, 2014. In sum, SCLC informed Glassmeyer that (1) the request for the claimants' full names, complete addresses, telephone numbers, and forms of identification were exempted from disclosure by section 30-2-310 (A)(1)(e) of the South Carolina Code (Supp. 2018)[2]and, therefore, were exempted from disclosure under section 30-4-40(a)(4) of the South Carolina Code (2007)[3]; (2) the request for copies of the claimants' forms of identification, such as their driver's licenses, were not public records under FOIA; and (3) SCLC could not disclose an individual's personal identifying information because it would be an invasion of privacy. However, SCLC did disclose the following information to Glassmeyer: the gross dollar amount of the claims, dates of the claims, the hometowns and states of the claimants, and the games associated with the prizes won. Glassmeyer submitted two more FOIA requests in letters dated April 16 and April 17, 2014. Glassmeyer stated that the response he received from SCLC on April 16 "did not satisfy my request." (emphasis in original). Again, Glassmeyer requested that SCLC provide him with the "claimants' full names."

         Meanwhile, Doe's action against SCLC proceeded forward in the circuit court. The circuit court found that

[Doe] therefore is entitled to a declaratory judgment that the release of all or any part of [Doe's] personal identifying information, such as [claimant's] name, would result in an unreasonable invasion of [Doe's] personal privacy in accordance with Section 30-4-40(a)(2).[4]

         Thus, on April 25, 2014, the court granted a permanent injunction and ordered that SCLC be "permanently restrained and enjoined from releasing any and all information regarding [Doe] in response to the FOIA request of Mr. George Glassmeyer and any other FOIA request."[5]

         Thereafter, in a letter dated May 7, 2014, SCLC responded to Glassmeyer's April 16 and April 17 requests. SCLC granted Glassmeyer's request pertaining to information that it determined was disclosable, but informed Glassmeyer that his request for the claimants' full names would constitute an unreasonable invasion of personal privacy and this information was exempt under section 30-4-40(a)(2). On that same day, SCLC filed a summons and complaint against Glassmeyer requesting the court grant declaratory judgment and injunctive relief "with respect to the release of personal information regarding claimants of lottery winnings," which resulted in the present appeal.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         "A suit for declaratory judgment is neither legal nor equitable, but is determined by the nature of the underlying issue." Felts v. Richland Cty., 303 S.C. 354, 356, 400 S.E.2d 781, 782 (1991). "In equitable actions, the appellate court may find facts in accordance with its own view of the preponderance of the evidence." Id. "In law actions, the lower court must be affirmed where there is 'any evidence' to support its findings." Id. "An issue [that is] essentially one at law will not be transformed into one in equity simply because declaratory relief is sought." Id. "A declaratory judgment action under the FOIA to determine whether certain information should be disclosed is an action at law." Burton v. York Cty. Sheriff's Dep't, 358 S.C. 339, 346, 594 S.E.2d 888, 892 (Ct. App. 2004). The appellate court reviews questions of law de novo. See Glassmeyer v. City of Columbia, 414 S.C. 213, 218, 777 S.E.2d 835, 838 (Ct. App. 2015).

         STANDING

         Glassmeyer argues SCLC did not have standing under FOIA to file this action because the statute indicates only citizens may apply to the circuit court for a declaratory judgment or injunction. We disagree.

         "To have standing, one must have a personal stake in the subject matter of the lawsuit. In other words, one must be a real party in interest." Sea Pines Ass'n for the Prot. of Wildlife, Inc. v. S.C. Dep't of Nat. Res., 345 S.C. 594, 600, 550 S.E.2d 287, 291 (2001). "Standing may be acquired: (1) by statute; (2) through the rubric of 'constitutional standing;' or (3) under the 'public importance' exception." ATC S., Inc. v. Charleston Cty., 380 S.C. 191, 195, 669 S.E.2d 337, 339 (2008). The FOIA statute specifically "contains a civil enforcement provision granting standing to a South Carolina citizen to seek injunctive relief against a violation of any FOIA provision." Cricket ...


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