The question of whether University Hospital is a public institution — an issue in the controversial plan to merge the University of Louisville's main teaching hospital with two other health-care systems — has been placed before Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway. ACLU of Kentucky and The Courier-Journal have asked Conway to review recent refusals by University Medical Center Inc., which does business as University Hospital, to provide documents they sought under the Kentucky Open Records Act. UMC turned down both requests on grounds that it is a nonprofit corporation rather than a public agency and therefore isn't subject to the act. A Kentucky attorney general's open-records opinion has the force of law, but can be appealed to circuit court. Conway's decision likely would not affect the pending merger, since questions other than open records are involved in officials' ongoing review of the deal's legality. Conway and state Auditor Crit Luallen are conducting that review for Gov. Steve Beshear, whose approval of the transaction is needed. The merger would combine University Hospital, Jewish Hospital & St. Mary's HealthCare and Lexington-based St. Joseph Health System.