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1. Attorney General's role

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  • Alaska

    There is no provision in the act for the Department of Law or any other state entity to enforce the public's right of access to records.

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  • Arizona

    Not addressed.

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  • Arkansas

    The Attorney General over the years has issued hundreds of opinions interpreting the FOIA. These are advisory opinions, not binding on Arkansas courts. As a practical matter, Arkansas courts frequently cite to Attorney General opinions when reaching FOIA decisions. The Attorney General is authorized by statute to render legal opinions at the request of certain public officials, including members of the General Assembly, all state boards and commissions, the heads of executive departments, and prosecuting attorneys. Ark. Code Ann. § 25-16-706. Furthermore, the FOIA itself provides for Attorney General opinions in cases involving personnel and job evaluation records: “Either the custodian, requester, or the subject of the records may immediately seek an opinion from the Attorney General, who, within three (3) working days of receipt of the request, shall issue an opinion stating whether the decision is consistent with this chapter. In the event of a review by the Attorney General, the custodian shall not disclose the records until the Attorney General has issued his opinion.” Ark. Code Ann. § 25-19-105(c)(3)(B).

    The Attorney General also has a power of enforcement in case of FOIA non-compliance. The courts have regarded the Attorney General as a “citizen” entitled to employ the FOIA. Bryant v. Weiss, 335 Ark. 534, 983 S.W.2d 902 (1998). Thus the Attorney General may file a repeat request denied to another citizen, and if the request is again denied, the Attorney General may bring a civil suit under the FOIA, effectively standing in the shoes of the original requester.

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  • California

    The CPRA does not appear to permit the California Attorney General to initiate enforcement proceedings against a public agency to disclose public records unless the Attorney General has been denied access to public records.

    County district attorneys may petition a court to require a state or local agency to allow them to inspect or receive copies of public records not otherwise exempt from disclosure when the agency fails to allow inspection or copying within 10 working days of a request. Cal. Gov’t Code § 6264.

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  • Colorado

    None. But see Attorney General Opinion No. 01-01 "Colorado Open Records Act: Nineteen Frequently Asked Questions" available at http://www.ago.state.co.us/AGO/AGO01/ago01-1.htm.

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  • Connecticut

    The attorney general has no role in enforcing FOIA.

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  • Delaware

    By petition of a citizen denied access to information, the Attorney General can determine whether a violation has occurred. 29 Del. C. § 10005(e).

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  • District of Columbia

    The Corporation Counsel must submit an annual report listing the number of cases which arose under the D.C. Act in the previous fiscal year, the exemption involved, disposition, and costs assessed in each case. D.C. Code Ann. § 2-538(c).

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  • Florida

    The Florida Legislature has created a Voluntary Mediation Program within the Attorney General’s Office to mediate disputes involving access to public records.  See Fla. Stat. § 16.60 (2012).  The Attorney General’s Office is required to employ mediators to mediate such disputes, recommend to the Legislature needed legislating regarding access to public records, and assist the Department of State in preparing training seminars record public records access.  See Fla. Stat. § 16.60(3).

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  • Hawaii

    Not specified.

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  • Idaho

    Given that the act only provides for private enforcement, the attorney general’s role is limited to providing information to the public, not enforcement. To that end, the attorney general’s office publishes an “Idaho Public Records Law Manual” to inform the public of their rights under the act. Copies of the manual are available from the Office of the Attorney General in Boise or online at https://ag.idaho.gov/office-resources/public-records/. The attorney general also encourages compliance by state agencies and officials and conducts training on the act throughout the state for such individuals and entities.

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  • Illinois

    The Public Access Counselor established in the Office of the Illinois Attorney General has jurisdiction to resolve and mediate FOIA disputes.  See 5 ILCS 140/9.5.  A public body that asserts that records are exempt under 5 ILCS 140/7(1)(c) and 5 ILCS 140/7(1)(f), must, within the time periods provided for responding to a request, provide written notice to the requester and the Public Access Counselor of its intent to deny the request in whole or in part.  5 ILCS 140/9.5.  The Public Access Counselor will, then, decide whether those exemptions are properly invoked.  Id.  The Public Access Counselor may also issue binding opinions, which are considered final decisions of an administrative agency, for purposes of administrative review under the Administrative Review Law.  5 ILCS 140/11.5.  The binding decisions of the PAC can be found on the Attorney General’s website.

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  • Indiana

    Aggrieved parties under the Act seek remedy by filing a lawsuit in any court of competent jurisdiction in the state. The attorney general has no role in the enforcement of public access. See Ind. Code § 5-14-5-6.

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  • Iowa

    The attorney general has statutory authority to seek judicial enforcement.

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  • Kentucky

    If, after making a written request and waiting the required three (3) business days for a response, the public agency either denies the request or fails to respond, the requester may ask the Attorney General to review the matter. Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.880(1)-(2). The requester must forward the Attorney General a copy of the written request and a copy of the agency's denial. Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.880(2).

    The Attorney General will also review a request when the requester feels the intent of the Act is "being subverted by an agency short of denial of inspection, including but not limited to the imposition of excessive fees or the misdirection of the applicant." Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.880(4).

    The Attorney General may request to inspect the disputed records in camera as part of the appeal process. Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.880(2)(c). The Attorney General is required to render a decision within twenty (20) business days, unless an extension of time up to an additional thirty (30) business days. Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.880(2)(a) & (b).

    If either party is unsatisfied with the Attorney General's decision, the party may file an appeal with the Circuit Court within 30 days from the date of the Attorney General's decision. Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.880(5)(a). A timely appeal will be reviewed de novo and treated as if it had been brought in Circuit Court pursuant to Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.882. If not timely appealed, the Attorney General's decision has the force of law and may be enforced by the Circuit Court. Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.880(5)(b).

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  • Louisiana

    The Attorney General has no enforcement role.  His only role is to “establish a program for educating the general public, public bodies, and custodians regarding the provisions of” the Public Records Act, which “may include brochures, pamphlets, videos, seminars, and Internet access to information which provides training on the provisions of this Chapter, including the custodian's responsibilities in connection with a request for records and the right of a person to institute court proceedings if access to a record is denied by the custodian.”  La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 44:31.2.

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  • Maine

    The Attorney General may enforce the Act, but prosecutions are rare.

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  • Maryland

    The Attorney General frequently opines as to the applicability of the PIA, and issues guidelines to Maryland's state agencies. See generally PIA Manual.

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  • Massachusetts

    The Supervisor of Public Records may notify the Attorney General of a case of noncompliance. G.L. c. 66, § 10(b), 950 CMR 32.09. However, the Attorney General has no obligation to act. Rather, the office decides on a case-by-case basis whether to take action and, if it does, what measures it deems necessary to ensure compliance. The Attorney General does not have authority to request oversight of a public records request.

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  • Michigan

    The Attorney General plays no role in the enforcement of the FOIA.

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  • Minnesota

    The Attorney General’s office has no substantive role with respect to the Act, other than its general duty to issue opinions.

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  • Mississippi

    The act does not specifically address the role of the Attorney General.

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  • Montana

    The Attorney General has no specific role by statute, but may issue advisory opinions answering questions of law raised by public agencies or officials. Private citizens may not request Attorney General opinions.

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  • Nebraska

    Any person denied access to a record may petition the attorney general to review the matter to determine whether the record may be withheld from public inspection. The attorney general may order the custodian to disclose the record. If the custodian refuses, the requester may file suit or may demand that the attorney general do so. Neb. Rev. Stat. §84-712.03.

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  • Nevada

    A governmental entity can consult with the Attorney General’s office when presented with extraordinary or legally complex requests for public records.

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  • New Hampshire

    The Attorney General does not enforce the Statute. The Office advises state agencies that receive right-to-know requests, and it also responds to requests from the public for information about the Statute. The Attorney General has provided a helpful memorandum on the Right-to-Know Law which is available at its Web site (www.doj.nh.gov/publications/right_to_know).

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  • New Jersey

    None other than acting as attorney to the Government Records Council.

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  • New Mexico

    The Attorney General or District Attorney in the jurisdiction has authority to enforce the Inspection of Public Records Act.  NMSA 1978 § 14-2-12(A)(1) (1993).  Any person whose request has been denied may enforce the Act.  § 14-2-12(A)(2) (1993).  A previously unnamed principal may enforce Inspection of Public Records Act, either directly in its own name or through its agent.  San Juan Agric. Water Users Ass'n v. KNME-TV, 2011-NMSC-11, ¶¶ 29-36, 150 N.M. 64, 257 P.3d 884.

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  • New York

    In the event an Article 78 proceeding is commenced against an agency based on its failure to comply with FOIL, the New York State Attorney General’s office will defend the agency.

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  • North Carolina

    In response to requests from public officials, the attorney General issues opinions interpreting the law; otherwise, the Attorney General plays a very limited role in enforcing the Public Records Law.

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  • North Dakota

    Any interested person may request an attorney general’s opinion to review a written denial of a request for records. N.D.C.C. § 44-04-21.1(1). A request must be made within thirty days of the alleged violation. Id. The attorney general may request and obtain information claimed to be exempt or confidential in order to determine whether the information is exempt or confidential. Id. Any such information may not be released by the attorney general and may be returned to the provider of the information. Id. The attorney general shall issue to the public entity involved an opinion on the alleged violation, unless the request is withdrawn by the person requesting the opinion or a civil action has been filed involving the possible violation. Id.

    If the attorney general issues a written opinion concluding that a violation has occurred, the public entity has seven days after the opinion is issued, regardless of whether a civil action is filed, to disclose the record. N.D.C.C. § 44-04-21.1(2). If the public entity fails to disclose the record within the seven-day period and the person requesting the opinion prevails in a civil action brought under N.D.C.C. § 44-04-21.2, the requestor must be awarded costs, disbursements, and reasonable attorney’s fees in the action and on appeal. Id. The consequences for failing to comply with an attorney general’s opinion also include potential personal liability for the person or persons responsible for the noncompliance. Id.

    Additionally, a civil action may be brought for a violation of the open records laws. N.D.C.C. § 44-04-21.2. The court may award declaratory relief, an injunction, a writ of prohibition or mandamus, costs, disbursements, and reasonable attorney’s fees against the entity for any violation. Id. For an intentional or knowing violation, the court may award damages in amount equal to $1,000 or actual damages caused by the violation, whichever is greater. Id. A civil action must be commenced within sixty days of the date the requestor knew or should have known of the violation or within thirty days of the issuance of an attorney general’s opinion on the alleged violation, whichever is later. Id. The remedies provided under N.D.C.C. § 44-04-21.2 are not available if a violation has been corrected before a civil action has been filed and no person has been prejudiced or harmed by the delay. Id. A person interested in bringing a civil action must give at least three working days’ notice of the alleged violation to the chief administrative officer of the public entity. Id. The opportunity to cure a violation does not apply, however, if the entity has previously violated the open records laws. Id.

    Finally, the attorney general may refer to the appropriate state’s attorney any public servant who has been found in more than one opinion to have violated the open records law. N.D.C.C. § 44-04-21.3. A public servant who knowingly violates the open records law is guilty of a class A misdemeanor. Id.

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  • Ohio

    The Ohio Attorney General has no role in public records matters except to the extent that it advises state agencies and represents them when a requester sues them.

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  • Oklahoma

    The Attorney General is not directly involved in criminal or civil enforcement of the Act. The Attorney General will issue opinions on specific questions concerning the application of the Acts. Once these opinions are issued, covered agencies must act consistent with the opinion.

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  • Oregon

    The Attorney General’s role in enforcing the Public Records Law varies depending upon the circumstance. A person challenging the denial of a records request to a state agency (but not an elected official) can seek review from the Attorney General. ORS 192.411(1) (formerly ORS 192.450). If the Attorney General determines that the requested records should not be disclosed and the requestor seeks judicial review of that determination, the Attorney General will serve as counsel for the state agency. ORS 192.411(3).

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  • Rhode Island

    A person who has been denied access to records has the option of filing a complaint with the Attorney General, who shall investigate the complaint.  If the Attorney General then determines that the complaint is meritorious, he or she may instigate proceedings for injunctive or declaratory relief on behalf of the complainant in the appropriate superior court.  R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-8(b).  The Attorney General may also, of his or her own volition, initiate a complaint on behalf of the public interest.  R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-8(d).

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  • South Carolina

    The South Carolina Attorney General's office has consistently issued opinions in favor of open government and has participated with the South Carolina Press Association in the publication of a guide for public official compliance with the law.

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  • South Dakota

    None specified, but a state’s attorney may ask the attorney general to assume the case.

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  • Tennessee

    None. Other than to participate in any open records litigation where the constitutionality of any statute is challenged, or to represent the State when it (as opposed to local government) is the records custodian.

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  • Texas

    The Attorney General may file suit for a writ of mandamus compelling a governmental body to make information available for public inspection if the governmental body refuses to request an Attorney General's decision or refuses to supply public information that the Attorney General has determined is public information and not excepted under the Act. Tex. Gov’t Code § 552.321.  If the Attorney General enters into a proposed settlement that all or part of the information that is the subject of the suit should be withheld, the Attorney General shall notify the requestor of that decision and, if the requestor has not intervened in the suit, notify the requestor of the requestor's right to intervene to contest the withholding.

    § 552.325(c). The Attorney General shall notify the requestor: (1) in the manner required by the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, if the requestor has intervened in the suit; or (2) by certified mail or by another written method of notice that requires the return of a receipt, if the requestor has not intervened in the suit. Id.

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  • Utah

    “The Office of the Attorney General shall provide counsel to the records committee and shall review proposed retention schedules.” Utah Code § 63G-2-502(7).

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  • Vermont

    To date, there have been no enforcement actions brought by the Vermont Attorney General’s Office.

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  • Virginia

    The Attorney General has no role in enforcement of the Act.  The Office of the Attorney General appears in the defense of state public bodies charged with violations of the Act.

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  • Washington

    If a state agency denies a person an opportunity to inspect or copy a public record, the individual may request the attorney general’s office to review the matter and provide a written opinion. RCW 42.56.530. Such opinions are not binding on the agency but may be persuasive.

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  • West Virginia

    The West Virginia Freedom of Information Act does not explicitly mention the Attorney General's role in enforcement of the Act. The West Virginia Open Governmental Meetings Act provides that "It is the duty of the attorney general to compile the statutory and case law pertaining to this article and to prepare appropriate summaries and interpretations for the purpose of informing all public officials subject to this article of the requirements of this article." W. Va. Code § 6-9A-12. See https://ago.wv.gov/publicresources/Documents/2017-3-10%20Open%20Meetings%20Booklet%20(Q0236711xD6D48).pdf. State agencies and other governmental entities may request the Attorney General to render an official opinion regarding issues relating to either the West Virginia FOIA or the Open Governmental Proceedings Act. W. Va. Code § 5-3-1.

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  • Wyoming

    Violations of the Act are punishable by a civil penalty, but the attorney general or appropriate county attorney must initiate an action to seek the penalty. W.S. §16-4-205.

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