Mandamus: Judgments: Appeal and Error. An
action for a writ of mandamus is a law action, and in an
appellate review of a bench trial of a law action, a trial
court's finding has the effect of a jury verdict and will
not be set aside unless clearly erroneous.
Estoppel: Equity: Appeal and Error. A claim
of equitable estoppel rests in equity, and in an appeal of an
equity action, an appellate court tries factual questions de
novo on the record and reaches a conclusion independent of
the findings of the trial court.
Estoppel: Words and Phrases. To mend
one's hold means that where a party has based his or her
conduct upon certain reasons stated by him or her, he or she
will not be permitted, after litigation has commenced, to
assert other reasons for his or her conduct.
Mandamus: Proof. A party seeking a writ of
mandamus under Neb. Rev. Stat. § 84-712.03 (Reissue
2014) has the burden to satisfy three elements: (1) The
requesting party is a citizen of the state or other person
interested in the examination of the public records, (2) the
document sought is a public record as defined by Neb. Rev.
Stat. § 84-712.01 (Reissue 2014), and (3) the requesting
party has been denied access to the public record as
guaranteed by Neb. Rev. Stat. § 84-712 (Reissue 2014).
If the requesting party satisfies its prima facie claim for
release of public records, the public body opposing
disclosure must show by clear and convincing evidence that
Neb. Rev. Stat. § 84-712.05 (Reissue 2014) or Neb. Rev.
Stat. § 84-712.08 (Reissue 2014) exempts the records
Records: Appeal and Error. It is incumbent
upon the appellant to present a record supporting the errors
__:__. The decision of a district court that is reviewing
records in camera under the public records statutes to allow
other persons to [294 Neb. 843] review said records is
entrusted to the district court's discretion, and is
reviewed for an abuse of that discretion.
from the District Court for Lancaster County: Susan I.
Shiffermiller, of Shiffermiller Law Office, PC, L.L.O., for
Douglas J. Peterson, Attorney General, and David A. Lopez for
Heavican, C.J., Wright, Miller-Lerman, Cassel, Kelch, and
Steckelberg filed a public records request under Neb. Rev.
Stat. § 84-712 (Reissue 2014), seeking records relating
to the interview and selection process for a job opening as
an "Executive Protection Trooper" with the Nebraska
State Patrol (State Patrol). Steckelberg's request was
denied, and he sought a writ of mandamus in the district
court. Steckelberg's petition for writ of mandamus was
denied. He appealed, and we granted the State Patrol's
petition to bypass the Nebraska Court of Appeals. We affirm.
is employed by the State Patrol as a trooper. He was an
applicant for a lateral transfer to the position of Executive
Protection Trooper. Interviews were conducted on March 26,
2015. Another applicant was awarded the position.
April 5, 2015, Steckelberg requested that he be permitted to
review his score sheets and the comments and recommendations
from the hiring board. That request was denied, with the
State Patrol's human resources division informing
Steckelberg that the State Patrol would not provide feedback
concerning interviews. That same day, Steckelberg inquired as
[294 Neb. 844] to why his own records were not provided to
him. Steckelberg was again informed that there would be no
feedback given regarding interviews, because such records
were considered to be confidential.
April 9, 2015, Steckelberg made, through counsel, a request
under Nebraska's public records laws for "any and
all documents regarding the most recent interview for the
Executive Protection Trooper position, " including
"the completed a [sic] score sheet, which each member
made notes and comments on, each recommendation and the
Board's recommendation to the Superintendent." The
State Patrol sent the listing for the open position but
otherwise denied Steckelberg's request, with the State
Patrol referencing Neb. Rev. Stat. § 84-712.05(15)
(Reissue 2014) as the basis for such denial.
6, 2015, Steckelberg sought a writ of mandamus in the
Lancaster County District Court, again under Nebraska's
public records laws, seeking the records that were the
subject of his public records request. Trial on
Steckelberg's petition was held on August 14.
trial court held for the State Patrol and denied
Steckelberg's petition for writ of mandamus. The trial
court concluded that the records Steckelberg sought could be
withheld under § 84-712.05(7), providing that the
personal information of personnel could be withheld from
examination. The court addressed and rejected
Steckelberg's argument that the State Patrol was not
permitted to rely on § 84-712.05(7) when its initial
denial was purportedly premised on § 84-712.05(15),
concluding that its review of the public records request was
de novo under Neb. Rev. Stat. § 84-712.03 (Reissue
appealed. The State Patrol filed a petition to bypass the
Court of Appeals, which we granted.
assigns, restated and consolidated, that the trial court
erred in (1) allowing the State Patrol to rely on [294 Neb.
845] a different exemption than that originally relied upon,
(2) finding that Steckelberg had not met his burden of proof
to show that the documents were public records, (3) finding
the records were exempt under § 84-712.05(7) and
accordingly denying his petition ...