The court has the discretion to award attorneys' fees where the person bringing suit obtains a writ of mandamus. Ohio Rev. Code § 149.43(C). Establishing the legal test for guiding that discretion has been changing. The latest formulation is that a court will award attorneys' fees where the party bringing suit showed a public benefit and where the public office's reasons for failing to comply with the request for records are invalid. State ex rel. Plain Dealer Publishing Co. v. City of Cleveland, 75 Ohio St.3d 31, 661 N.E.2d 187 (1996); State ex rel. Cincinnati Enquirer v. Hamilton County, 75 Ohio St. 3d 374, 662 N.E.2d 334 (1996).
The court has the discretion to award attorneys' fees where the public office failed to comply with a sufficiently specific request for public records, then the requester sued, and then the public office complied with the request before the court ordered the public office to comply. State ex rel. Pennington v. Gundler, 75 Ohio St.3d 171, 661 N.E.2d 1409 (1996); State ex rel. Toledo Blade Co. v. Bd. of Hancock County, 82 Ohio St.3d 34, 693 N.E.2d 787 (1998).