North Dakotans have some of the most comprehensive open records and open meetings laws in the nation. Under North Dakota law, all records of public bodies are open for inspection by anyone, and all meetings of public bodies are open for attendance by anyone, unless there is a specific statutory exception.
The North Dakota Supreme Court and the North Dakota Attorney General (whose opinions are binding on all public officials unless and until they are overruled by a court) have interpreted the open records and open meetings laws to favor the public’s right to know. Both the court and the Attorneys General have stated that the term “record,” as used in the open records law, must be interpreted expansively.
Because the North Dakota Constitution and North Dakota law state that all records and meetings are open unless there is a specific exception in the law, any discussion of open records and open meetings law naturally focuses upon these exceptions. The Open Records and Open Meetings outline that follows focuses on the exceptions; of course, any attempt to locate every exception in the multiple volumes of the North Dakota Century Code carries the risk (of perhaps even the likelihood) of missing some exceptions, and the author apologizes for any such omissions. Statutes cited in the outline, as well as the remaining provisions of the North Dakota Century Code, may be found and searched online at http://www.legis.nd.gov/information/statutes/cent-code.html.
Two additional useful resources include the Open Records Manual and the Open Meetings Manual, both published by the North Dakota Attorney General. Both manuals may be found online at http://www.ag.nd.gov/OpenRecords/ORM2006A.htm.