Text of Constitution
Alaska Const. art. I, § 22: “The right of the people to privacy is recognized and shall not be infringed.”
Falcon v. Alaska Public Offices Comm’n, 570 P.2d 469 (Alaska 1977).
Procedural Posture: Plaintiff’s appeal from superior court order granting summary judgment in favor of defendant.3
Law: Public Employment, right to privacy
Facts: A physician refused to disclose the identities of patients who paid him more than $100, as a newly enacted conflicts-of-interest law required, when he was elected to a local school board.4Plaintiff argued on behalf of his clients, not himself, that disclosure of his patients’ identities would impede on constitutionally-protected zones of privacy and reveal “sensitive personal information.”5
Outcome: The Alaska Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s grant of summary judgment.6The Court held that the conflicts-of-interest law impermissibly invaded the rights to privacy guaranteed by the Alaska Constitution to the extent it could not protect certain types of personal sensitive information.7The Court determined that ordinarily the identity of persons who paid more than $100 to a physician only involves a minimal invasion of privacy, but that the invasion is greater where the disclosure may “cause particular embarrassment or opprobrium” related to a patient seeking out treatment of “sexual problems or venereal disease.”8
There is a constitutional right to privacy in Alaska. Although no cases have applied this constitutional protection in the context of nonconsensual disclosure and publication of sexually explicit photos, the Alaska Supreme Court has held that the privacy right “is implicated by the disclosure of personal information about oneself.”1However, the right applies only to government actions, not the actions of privacy parties.2
- 1. Doe v. Alaska Super. Ct., Third Jud. Dist.721 P.2d 617, 629 (Alaska 1986) (“A common thread woven into our decisions is that privacy protection extends to the communication of private matters, or, phrased differently, sensitive personal information, or a person’s more intimate concerns.”) (citations and internal quotations omitted));see also K.L. v. State, Dep’t of Admin., Div. of Motor Vehicles, No. 3AN-11-05431 CI, 2012 WL 2685183 (Alaska Mar. 12, 2012).
- 2. Luedtke v. Nabors Alaska Drilling, Inc., 768 P.2d 1123, 1130 (Alaska 1989).
- 3. Note that civil litigants in Alaska appeal directly to the Alaska Supreme Court, which must hear all civil appeals. The Court of Appeals hears only criminal matters.See http://www.courts.alaska.gov/main/ctinfo.htm.
- 4. Id. at 472.
- 5. See id. at 477-80.
- 6. Id. at 480.
- 7. Id. at 480.
- 8. Id. at 479-80.