1. Statutory, regulatory or court-set time limits for agency response
Alabama's Public Records Law contains no prescribed time for an agency to respond to a records request. Some statutes require that particular records be available for inspection at all reasonable times, Ala. Code § 11-44-82 (county board of commissioners’ minutes, including copies of all resolutions and ordinances passed), but even those statutes do not prescribe how quickly the records must be prepared for public availability. Depending upon the circumstances of the request, a continued or repeated delay in response that undercuts the intended "public benefit" of the Public Records Law could be deemed violative of the Law. See Chambers v. Birmingham News Co., 552 So. 2d 854, 856 (Ala. 1989) (Public Records Law is intended for public benefit and is to be liberally construed with "a presumption in favor of public disclosure").
The Alabama attorney general has stated that a custodian of records may not cause any unreasonable delays in accommodating a request for public records. Op. Att'y Gen. Ala. No. 2008-073, 2008 Ala. AG LEXIS 43 (Apr. 21, 2008).
The public records statute does not specify any waiting period. Although the regulations do, the statutes would govern, and the public records law specifies that there is no requirement of exhaustion of remedies before a suit for access to public records can be filed. AS 40.25.125.
[In one court case where a pattern of violations of the public records laws was established, the court issued an injunction prohibiting the Municipality of Anchorage from delaying or otherwise manipulating the release of documents for political or other reasons not specified by law. Anchorage Daily News v. Anchorage, 11 Media L. Rptr. at 2174. Pursuant to this, the court on at least three occasions, in enforcement proceedings brought pursuant to this injunction, ordered the release of a document previously withheld by the municipality. In one case, the court ordered that the documents be produced within an hour or two after conclusion of court proceedings to determine that the document was in fact disclosable. However, while affirming the rulings requiring disclosure, the state Supreme Court ruled that the injunction would be improper to the extent it was so broadly worded as to in essence simply direct officials to follow the law. It remanded the issue to the superior court.]
As a general rule, the state regulations provide that the agency maintaining the requested records must furnish all requested records that are disclosable "as soon as practicable," but no later than the tenth working day after the agency receives a written request that complies with the regulations. 2 AAC 96.325(a).
[Bear in mind that the state regulations contained in the administrative code provisions discussed in this section presumably apply only to state executive branch agencies. 2 AAC 96.900(7). Other public entities may be governed by different rules. See, e.g., AMC 3.90.060, governing response to requests for public records of the Municipality of Anchorage. Municipal officers and employees are required to "make a good faith and diligent effort to provide a rapid and intelligible response to requests for inspection of records made pursuant to this chapter." Id. AMC 3.90.060 further requires that a requester be notified if the records and information cannot be located in time to make a response within two working days, implying that records requests should presumptively be satisfied in two days or less.]
The agency must promptly notify you if your request cannot be further processed until additional information is furnished because the description you gave is not sufficient to allow the agency to identify and locate the records you have requested. Time limits set out in the regulations do not begin to run until a sufficient description of the records is received in the office responsible for maintaining the records. 2 AAC 96.315(b). There is one source of delay which an agency can raise that you may be able to avoid by your initial request — any time which elapses between the time that you are sent the notice that processing your request will generate chargeable fees, and the time that you make suitable arrangements for payment of those charges, will be excluded from the period of 10 working days (or any extension of that). 2 AAC 96.325(c).
Within this 10-day period, the agency is supposed to furnish all requested records that are disclosable, and advise the requester which of the records, if any, are nondisclosable and the specific legal authority supporting this nondisclosure. 2 AAC 96.325(a)(1)(2). Within this same initial 10-working-day period after receipt of a request, a public agency that decides a request for a public record is, in fact, a request for electronic services and products, must advise the requester or its decision and reasons for this decision. 2 AAC 96.325(b).
The agency can extend the basic 10-working-day period for up to another 10 additional working days by sending written notice of this to you within the initial 10-day period. This notice must state the reasons for the extension and the date by which the office expects to be able to furnish the records you have requested or issue a determination that they are not disclosable. The notice must include a statement that "the extension is not invoked for purposes of delay." Such an extension is permitted only when one or more of the following circumstances exists, and then only as to those specific documents within the request as to which the circumstances apply: (1) there is a need to search for and collect the requested records from field or other offices that are separate from the office responsible for maintaining the records; (2) there is a need to search for, collect and examine a voluminous amount of separate and distinct records which are sought in a single request; (3) there is a need for consultation with an officer or employee who is absent on approved leave or official business; (4) the basic response period comes during a peak workload period; or (5) there is a need to consult with legal counsel to ensure that protected interests of private or government persons or entities are not infringed. 2 AAC 96.325(d).
In extraordinary circumstances the agency may request an extension of the period from the attorney general if the scope of the search or copying task is such that it would, within the initial 10-day period and any authorized extension under (d), substantially impair the functioning of the agency or its office responsible for maintaining the requested records. Such a claim must be made by the agency head to the attorney general, and following such a request for approval, the attorney general must promptly give you and the agency an opportunity to be heard and must render a speedy decision. Approval may be granted only in extraordinary circumstances and only for the minimum period determined by the attorney general to be required to complete the search or copying without substantial impairment of the agency or office function. 2 AAC 96.325(e).
Access to records apparently must be granted immediately unless the records are in active use or storage, in which case they must be made available within three working days of the request. Ark. Code Ann. § 25-19-105(e). While the FOIA contemplates immediate access, the custodian has a “reasonable time” to respond to the request if the records are voluminous or if they must be reviewed to decide whether an exemption applies. Reasonableness is determined on a case-by-case basis, and an agency policy that all responses will be made in three working days is contrary to the act. Ark. Op. Att’y Gen. Nos. 2000-59, 99-157, 98-223, 96-354, 94-225.
(1) As a practical matter, records at most agencies (except those set up to handle “over-the-counter” requests, such as the circuit clerk’s office) will be in either active use or storage, thus triggering the provision allowing the agency three working days to make them available. Records are in active use if, “at the time of the FOIA request[, they] are being utilized by agency employees in the performance of their official functions or duties.” Records are in storage if, at the time of the request, they are “located in a place which makes immediate access impossible or impractical.” Ark. Op. Att’y Gen. No. 94-225. The location of the unit in which the records are stored is of no significance. Ark. Op. Att’y Gen. No. 98-223.
(2) Requests for personnel records and employee evaluation records must be acted upon with 24 hours of the custodian’s receipt of the request. Ark. Code Ann. § 25-19-105(c)(3)(A). During that same period, the custodian must notify the person about whom the records are maintained that a request has been made. Id. The custodian, requester, or subject of the records may “immediately” seek an Attorney General’s opinion as to whether the records are exempt from disclosure. Ark. Code Ann. § 25-19-105(c)(3)(B). The statute requires the Attorney General to issue an opinion within three working days, and the records should not be disclosed until an opinion is handed down. Id.; Ark. Op. Att’y Gen. No. 93-300. If no request for an Attorney General’s opinion is made, the custodian should wait an additional 48 hours (72 hours from receipt of the FOIA request) before releasing the records. Ark. Op. Att’y Gen. Nos. 99-168, 97-008.
(3) The deadline of three working days will simply be unrealistic in some cases. See Ark. Op. Att’y Gen. No. 2000-059 (if a search will take some time because the requested records are voluminous or it is necessary for the custodian to obtain legal advice as to whether some records may be exempt from disclosure, the custodian should be afforded a “reasonable amount of time” to comply with the request, even if more than three working days are necessary). If the request is likely to be controversial or covers a large number of records, the requester should consider allowing the agency additional time or negotiating for the immediate release of some records and access to others on a delayed basis.
Copies of nonexempt public records must be made "promptly" available to the requester. However, the CPRA expressly allows 10 days from receipt of the request for the agency to make a determination as to whether a specific record is a disclosable public record in the possession of the agency. Cal. Gov't Code § 6253(c). This does not mean that the agency may take 10 days on all requests for public records. It simply means that where a question exists about whether the record is exempt from disclosure or whether the record is in the agency's possession, the agency may take up to 10 days to make its determination. See Cal. Gov't Code § 6253(d) ("Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to permit an agency to obstruct the inspection or copying of public records.")
An agency also must allow for the inspection of public records at all times during the office hours of the agency. Cal. Gov't Code § 6253(a).
Extension of time for unusual circumstances. If the agency contends that the request is unusual and requires a search of separate locations, an examination of a voluminous amount of separate and distinct records, consultation with another agency with an interest in the records requested, or the compilation of data, writing of programming language or constructing a computer report to extract data, the time limit for the agency to make its determination regarding disclosure may be extended by an additional 14 days. In such "unusual circumstances," the head of the agency, or his or her designee, must provide written notice to the person making the request "setting forth the reasons for the extension and the date on which a determination is expected to be dispatched," which shall not be later than 14 days beyond the original 10 day period. When the determination is dispatched and if the agency determines that the records are disclosable, it must notify the requester of when the records will be made available. Cal. Gov't Code § 6253(c).
The CPRA requires prompt notification of agency determination. As soon as a determination is made whether to comply with the request, the agency must immediately notify the requester of the decision and of the reasons for any denial. Cal. Gov't Code § 6255(a). The agency is required to demonstrate that the record in question is exempt by citing the specific provision(s) of the CPRA or other law it is relying upon for its denial to disclose. Id.
All public records are open for inspection by any person at reasonable times, but the official custodian of any public records may make such rules as are reasonably necessary for the protection of such records and the prevention of unnecessary interference with the regular discharge of the duties of the custodian. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-72-203(1).
Where public records are kept only in miniaturized or digital form, the official custodian shall ensure public access to the public records without unreasonable delay. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-72-203(1).
If the public records requested are not readily available at the time an applicant asks to examine them, the custodian shall notify the applicant of this fact, and if requested by the applicant, the custodian shall set a date and hour at which time the records will be available for inspection within a reasonable time after the request. A "reasonable time" shall be presumed to be three working days or less. Under extenuating circumstances such period may be extended to no more than seven working days. A finding that extenuating circumstances exist shall be made in writing by the custodian and shall be provided to the person making the request within the three-day period. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-72-203(3).
FOIA states that: "[a]ny denial of the right to inspect or copy records provided for under section 1-210 shall be made to the person requesting such right by the public agency official who has custody or control of the public record, in writing, within four business days of such request, except when the request is determined to be subject to subsections (b) and (c) of section 1-214, in which case denial shall be made in writing within ten business days of such request. Failure to comply with a request to so inspect or copy such public record within the applicable number of business days shall be deemed to be a denial." Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-206(a). An agency may not defend its decision to ignore a request on the grounds that the request was made simply for the purposes of harassing the agency. Mayor v. FOIC, No. CV 01-0511803S, 2002 WL 523086 (Conn. Super. Mar. 19, 2002). Records must be produced promptly. Promptly means “quickly and without undue delay, taking into account” various factors. Torlai v. FOIC, 2017 Conn. Super. LEXIS 4989. In Aronow v. FOIC, 2018 Conn. Super. LEXIS 31, the Superior Court affirmed the FOIC’s determination that a nine month response time to produce the requested records was proper based upon the circumstances.
The Attorney General has suggested that responses should issue within 10 days after receiving a request, absent special circumstances requiring a longer delay. Del. Op. Att'y Gen., No. 91-I003 (Feb. 1, 1991). If the requested information is not exempt, agencies must give "reasonable" access to records during "regular business hours and [at the] place of business." 29 Del. C. §§ 10003(a), 10112(b)(3).
"Reasonable access" as used in Delaware's FOIA means that a public body "should, within ten (10) days after the receipt of a definitive request, issue a written determination to the requestor stating which of the requested records will, and which will not, be released and the reasons for any denial of a request." Del. Op. Att'y Gen., No. 91-I003 (Feb. 1, 1991). Weekends and legal holidays have been excluded from the 10-day calculation. Del. Op. Att'y Gen., No. 03-ib13 (June 2, 2003).
Upon receipt of a request, an agency is required to respond “within a reasonable amount of time not to exceed three business days.” O.C.G.A. § 50-18-71(b)(1)(A). If some, but not all, records can be located and produced within three business days, the agency shall make those records available as soon as reasonable within that period. If additional records exist but cannot be located and produced within that three day period, the agency shall, as soon as reasonable within that period, “provide the requester with a description of such records and a timeline for when the records will be available for inspection or copying and provide the responsive records or access thereto as soon as practicable.” Id.
If an agency “has decided to withhold all or part of a requested record, the agency shall notify the requester of the specific legal authority exempting the requested record or records from disclosure by Code section, subsection, and paragraph within a reasonable amount of time not to exceed three business days or in the event the search and retrieval of records is [lawfully] delayed … then no later than three business days after the records have been retrieved.” § 50-18-71(d). “It shall be the duty of the agency having custody of a record to provide all other portions of a record for public inspection or copying.” § 50-18-72(b).
In the case of formal requests, the agency has ten business days to disclose government records that will be disclosed in its entirety. Haw. Code R. § 2-71-13(a). For those records that will be segregated before being disclosed, the agency has ten business days to provide notice to the requester. Id. § 2-71-13(b).
The Idaho Public Records Act sets out specific time limits for an agency response to a request for inspection. An agency has three (3) working days to either grant or deny the request for information. Idaho Code § 74-103(1). Although agencies legally have up to three (3) working days to respond, agencies should not delay three (3) days to provide any information that is readily accessible. If you feel that the agency is able to provide you with access to a public record in a shorter period than three (3) working days and is refusing to provide you with more timely access for some improper reason, you should complain to a superior in the agency and to an Idaho legislator. At the time the Act was passed into law, the legislature indicated that groundless delays in providing access to records would lead to a shortening of the allowable response period.
If more than three (3) working days is needed to either locate the requested records or to retrieve the information, the agency must notify the requester in writing that more time is necessary and then grant or deny the request in full or in part within ten (10) working days from the date of request. Idaho Code § 74-103(1).
If a request for examination of public records is denied, the agency making the denial is to notify the requesting party in writing of the denial, identify the specific statutory basis for the denial and indicate that the agency has consulted with its attorney or chosen not to do so. The written denial is also required to clearly advise the requesting party of the right to appeal the denial and the time period allowed for doing so. Idaho Code § 74-103(3)-(4). A 180-day appeal period begins from the date of mailing of the notice of denial. Idaho Code § 74-115 (1)-(4).
Each public body must either comply with or deny a written request for public records within five business days after receiving it. See 5 ILCS 140/3(d).
The time for response under this Section may be extended by the public body for not more than 5 business days from the original due date for any of the following reasons:
(i) the requested records are stored in whole or in part at other locations than the office having charge of the requested records;
(ii) the request requires the collection of a substantial number of specified records;
(iii) the request is couched in categorical terms and requires an extensive search for the records responsive to it;
(iv) the requested records have not been located in the course of routine search and additional efforts are being made to locate them;
(v) the requested records require examination and evaluation by personnel having the necessary competence and discretion to determine if they are exempt from disclosure under 5 ILCS 140/7 or should be revealed only with appropriate deletions;
(vi) the request for records cannot be complied with by the public body within the time limits prescribed by 5 ILCS 140/3(c) without unduly burdening or interfering with the operations of the public body;
(vii) there is a need for consultation, which shall be conducted with all practicable speed, with another public body or among two or more components of a public body having a substantial interest in the determination or in the subject matter of the request. See 5 ILCS 140/3(e).
The person making a request and the public body may agree in writing to extend the time for compliance for a period to be determined by the parties. If the requester and the public body agree to extend the period for compliance, a failure by the public body to comply with any previous deadlines shall not be treated as a denial of the request. 5 ILCS 140/3.
Under Indiana Code Section 5-14-3-9, a denial is deemed to occur: (a) in the case of a request for the record made in person or by telephone, immediately upon refusal by a person designated by an agency to make records disclosure decisions, or 24 hours after any other employee of the agency refuses to permit inspection and copying of the public record; or (b) in the case of a request by mail or facsimile, seven days after the request has been received. However, an agency that agrees to provide records may not violate the statute if it fails to provide the records within the statutory time frame if the agency provides the records within a reasonable time and advises the requestor that the agency is not challenging the right to the documents. See Hrstich v. City of E. Chicago, 862 N.E.2d 9 (Ind. Ct. App. 2007) (unpublished).
Importantly, there is no set timeframe in which a public agency must actually produce the records. The agency is merely required to produce the documents or allow the requestor to make copies within a reasonable time. Ind. Code § 5-14-3-3(b).
A request must be acted upon as soon as possible, but not later than the third business day following the date the request is received. K.S.A. 45-218(d). "As soon as possible" means without undue delay, and immediately, if circumstances make that possible. Stauffer Communications Inc. v. Hayes, District Court of Jefferson Co., No. 87 C 66 (1987).
Within three days, exclusive of Saturdays, Sundays, and legal public holidays. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 44:32(D). Custodian must respond within three days even if still in the process of determining which requested records may be withheld. Association of Rights of Citizens v. St. Bernard, 557 So. 2d 714, 716-17 (La. App. 4th Cir. 1990).
The Act sets the following time limits for agency response:
- Acknowledge receipt of a request: 5 working days after receipt of the request;
- Provide good faith, nonbinding estimate of time to comply with request and a cost estimate: within “a reasonable time of receiving the request”;
- Denial of request: 5 working days of the receipt of the request
- Inspection and copying in response to a request: within “a reasonable time of making the request”;
A reason for not including a hard deadline for responding to requests is that some requests are more complex and difficult to satisfy than others, making a one-size-fits-all deadline impractical. However, the Law Court has held that the Act “mandates a prompt response.” Cook v. Lisbon Sch. Comm., 682 A.2d 672, 679 (Me. 1996). The Act requires that public officers and agencies act diligently to fulfill requests as soon as reasonably possible.
The statute provides a mandatory time frame in which the custodian must act upon the application. § 4-203(a). Within thirty days after receiving an application, the custodian must grant or deny the application. Id.; see also Stromberg Metal Works Inc. v. University of Maryland, et al., 382 Md. 151, 155, 854 A.2d 1220, 1223 (2004). Notwithstanding the thirty-day time period, where the right to access is clear, the custodian must act immediately. § 4-203(b)(1); see also PIA Manual, at 4-2. If the application is approved, then the custodian must produce the public record immediately or within a reasonable period that is needed to retrieve the public record, but that period cannot exceed the thirty day time period after receipt of the application. § 4-203(b)(1); see also Prince George's County v. Washington Post Co., 149 Md. App. 289, 308, 815 A.2d 859, 870 (2003). The time limits imposed by § 4-203(a)-(c) may not be extended without the consent of the applicant and in any event may not be extended for more than thirty days. § 4-203(d).
If the application is denied, then the custodian must immediately notify the applicant within 10 working days, give the applicant a written statement that sets forth the reasons for the denial, the legal authority for the denial, and notice of the remedies provided by the PIA for review of the denial. § 4-203(c); see also City of Frederick v. Randall Family, 154 Md. App. 543, 559, 841 A.2d 10, 20 (2004); Prince George's County, 149 Md. App. at 308, 815 A.2d at 870. This 10-day period is in addition to the maximum 30-day or (with an agreed extension) 60-day periods for granting or denying a request. Stromberg Metal Works Inc. v. University of Maryland, 382 Md. 151, 158-59, 854 A.2d 1220 (2004); see also PIA Manual, at 4-3.
The PIA previously provided that a custodian must permit inspection of any part of the record that is subject to access and is reasonably severable. See PIA Manual at 3-44. Since the 2015 amendments, however, the statute now states that a custodian who denies an application for a public record must “allow inspection of any part of the record that is subject to inspection.” § 4-203(c)(1)(ii). See Blythe v. State, 161 Md. App. 492, 519, 870 A.2d 1246, 1261, cert. granted, 388 Md. 97, 879 A.2d 42 (2005) (discussing the information a custodian must set forth to satisfy the statutory burden and justify withholding of the record).
If an application is submitted to an individual who is not the custodian, then that individual must, within 10 working days after receiving the application, give the applicant notice of that fact and, if known, the name of the custodian and the location or possible location of the public record. § 4-202(c).
Statute requires custodian to respond to request within 10 calendar days after receiving request. G.L. c. 66, § 10(b); see also Guide to the Massachusetts Public Records Law (Mass. Sec’y of State, rev’d March 2009), “Frequently Asked Questions” at p. 1 (“calendar days”) and at p. 6 (“as soon as practicable”). If that period ends on a day that the Division of Public Records is closed, then the period extends until the end of the following business day. 950 C.M.R. 32.04(3). Although the Law states that records shall be produced "without unreasonable delay," and later states that they should be produced "within ten days," the Supreme Judicial Court has stated that the terms do not clash and that a reply within 10 days is presumptively reasonable. The presumption may be overcome by a requester who can demonstrate a compelling need for earlier disclosure, Globe Newspaper Co. v. Commissioner of Education, 439 Mass. 124, 786 N.E.2d 328 (2003), although it is believed that no case has ever deemed a less-than-10-day response time to violate the statute.
A public body has five business days in which to respond to requests for public records, unless otherwise agreed to in writing by the person making the request. Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.235(2). The five "business days" means five consecutive weekdays, other than Saturdays, Sundays, or legal holidays, and not five consecutive days on which the particular body receiving the request is open for public business. 2005 Op. Att'y Gen. No. 7172 (2005). Any of the following will be considered a response:
(a) Granting the request.
(b) Issuing a written notice denying the request.
(c) Granting the request in part and issuing a written notice denying the request in part.
(d) Under unusual circumstances, as defined in Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.232(i), issuing a notice extending for not more than 10 business days the period during which the public body shall respond to the request. A public body shall not issue more than 1 notice of extension for a particular request. Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.235(2)(d). The five-business day time limit begins when a sufficient description of the public record is received by the public body at the office where the records are kept. 1979-80 Op. Att'y Gen. 255, 268-69 (1979). A public body may not treat a request for its records as having been received as of the date of its next regularly scheduled meeting; the request must be answered within five business days of the date the request was actually received by the public body. 1981-82 Op. Att'y Gen. 584, 586 (1982). Where a public body issues a notice extending the period for response to the request under Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.235(2)(d), it is required to set forth in the notice the reasons for the extension and the date by which the public body will either grant the request, issue a written notice denying the request, or grant the request in part and issued a written notice denying the request in part. Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.235(6). Once a public body timely claims the 10-day extension, the new response deadline is fifteen business days after receipt of the request, regardless of when the notice of extension is issued. Key v. Twp. of Paw Paw, 254 Mich. App. 508, 657 N.W.2d 546 (2002). A public body may not use a loss of time attributed to unnecessary delay by its agents in forwarding the request to the proper person as grounds for extending the time during which the response must be made. 1979-80 Op. Att'y Gen. 255, 269-70 (1979).
The Statute contains specific time limitations for response to a request for records. "If a public body is unable to make a public record available for immediate inspection and copying, it shall, within 5 business days of request, make such record available, deny the request in writing with reasons, or furnish written acknowledgement of the request and a statement of the time reasonably necessary to determine whether the request shall be granted or denied." RSA 91-A:4, IV. The Supreme Court has held that an agency may be justifiably "unable" to produce a record immediately if it is simply too busy or is understaffed. Brent v. Paquette, 132 N.H. 415 (1989); Gallagher v. Town of Windham, 121 N.H. 156 (1981) (permitting removal for use by government official in discharge of official duties).
N.J.S.A. 47:1A-5(i) directs that custodian shall grant or deny a request for access as soon as possible but not later than seven business days unless the record is archived or in storage or the request would substantially disrupt agency operations. N.J.S.A. 47:1A-5(e) provides that immediate access should ordinarily be granted to budgets, bills, vouchers, contracts and public employee salary and overtime information.
The custodian is obligated to permit the inspection immediately or as soon as practicable under the circumstance but not later than 15 days after receiving a written request. NMSA 1978 § 14-2-8(D). If the inspection is not permitted within three (3) business days, the Custodian shall explain in writing when records will be available or when the public body will respond to the request. NMSA 1978 § 14-2-8(D). Excessively burdensome or broad requests may allow the custodian additional time to permit the inspection. NMSA 1978 § 14-2-10.
The Public records law imposes no specific time limits on either requests or responses. G.S. § 132-6 states that a custodian of public records shall make them available “at reasonable times and under reasonable supervision by any person, and shall, as promptly as possible, furnish copies thereof upon payment of any fees as may be prescribed by law.” These standards apparently have not been interpreted by the courts. In counseling members of the North Carolina Press Association concerning the timeliness of requests and responses, the NCPA’s counsel has assumed that the quantity and nature of the documents requested would be considered in determining whether a request was timely and whether the response was reasonably prompt.
As noted above, the overwhelming majority of requests for public records in North Carolina are made orally. If a reporter’s request is denied, the usual next step is for the oral request to be reiterated by an editor or other person in authority in writing. If this request is denied, NCPA member newspapers frequently proceed to (1) obtain the opinion of an attorney, such as the NCPA’s counsel, with regard to whether the documents requested are indeed public records; (2) to publicize the fact of the denial, and the attorney’s opinion, in a news story; and (3) to initiate a written request from the newspaper’s management to the official who has refused to disclose the documents. The NCPA recommends that such a request describe the documents in question, point out that the documents appear to be covered by the North Carolina Public records law, and ask that if the request is denied, the official state in writing “any statute, case precedent, regulation or rule upon which you rely in declining public access to the documents in question.”
The statute provides different generalized time frames, depending on whether the requester seeks inspection or copying. The statute requires public offices to "promptly" prepare public records for public inspection and that inspection be permitted "at all reasonable times during regular business hours." The statute requires public offices to make copies of public records available "within a reasonable period of time." Ohio Rev. Code § 149.43(B)(1).
For a public office operating 24 hours a day, "regular business hours" does not require the public records be made available at all times. The office may establish periods of time for public inspection and copying of records that approximate ordinary administrative business hours of ordinary public agencies. State ex rel. Warren Newspapers v. Hutson, 70 Ohio St. 3d 619, 640 N.E.2d 174 (1994).
The court found that a city's delays of up to 24 days to prepare and provide access to requested accident reports were not "prompt" and, thus, justified a writ of mandamus. The court granted the writ of mandamus to compel the city to prepare and provide access to motor vehicle accident reports within eight days after accidents occur, the time frame sought by the requester. State ex rel. Wadd v. City of Cleveland, 81 Ohio St. 3d 50, 689 N.E.2d 25, 1998-Ohio-444; see also State ex rel. Consumer News Servs. Inc. v. Worthington City Bd. of Educ., 97 Ohio St. 3d 58, 776 N.E.2d 82 (2002) (finding that a six-day delay was not prompt, defining "prompt" as without delay and with reasonable speed), State ex rel. Office of Montgomery County Public Defender v. Siroki, 108 Ohio St. 3d 207, 842 N.E.2d 508 (2006) (holding that if an office could produce records in two days, then it should do so).
The 2017 statutory amendments to the Public Records Law significantly changed the law’s timing requirements. As amended, ORS 192.324 (formerly ORS 192.440) requires a custodian to acknowledge receipt of or complete the public body’s response to a written records request within five business days. ORS 192.329 further requires a public body to complete its response “as soon as practicable and without delay,” ORS 192.329(1), and establishes a general 15‑business day requirement for completing a records request, although that timing is subject to exceptions. ORS 192.329(5).
Under ORS 192.418(2) (formerly ORS 192.465), the failure of an elected official to deny, grant or deny and grant in part a records request is considered a denial of the request, allowing the requestor to seek court review.
The Law requires that an agency “respond as promptly as possible under the circumstances existing at the time of the request.” 65 Pa. C.S.A. § 67.901. The agency must respond no later than “five business days from the date the written request is received by the open-records officer for the agency.” Id. If an agency fails to send a response within that time period, “the written request for access shall be deemed denied.” Id.
The Law, however, allows agencies a longer time to respond – 30 days – if the agency determines that one of seven exceptions apply:
- the request requires redaction;
- the request requires “retrieval” of a record “stored in a remote location;”
- a timely response to the request cannot be accomplished “due to bona fide and specified staffing limitations;”
- a “legal review” is necessary to determine whether the record is a record subject to access under the Law;
- the requester has “not complied” with the agency’s policies;
- the requester refuses to pay applicable fees authorized by the Law; or
- the “extent and nature of the request precludes a response within the required time period.”
65 Pa. C.S.A. § 67.902(a)(1)-(7). In such situations, the agency must “send written notice” to the requester “within five business days of receipt of the request.” Id. § 67.902(b)(1). The notice shall include the statement “that the request for access is being reviewed, the reason for the review, a reasonable date that a response is expected to be provided, and an estimate of the applicable fees owed when the record becomes available.” Id. § 67.902(b)(2). If the agency’s expected response date is “in excess of 30 days,” “the request for access shall be deemed denied unless the requester has agreed in writing to an extension to the date specified in the notice.” Id. If the requester agrees to the extension and the agency fails to respond by the date agreed upon, “the request shall be deemed denied.” Id. § 67.902(b)(3).
Agencies must respond within 5 business days of receiving a request, and may have up to 30 days to respond if one of the enumerated exceptions described above is satisfied.
Records must be made available for inspection and copying “at such reasonable time as may be determined by the custodian thereof.” R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-3(a). The custodian is required to tell the requester if the records are in active use or in storage, and to make an appointment for the requester “to examine such records as expeditiously as may be made available.” R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-3(f).
However, any denial of the right to inspect or copy records must be made by the public body in writing, giving the specific reasons for the denial within ten (10) business days of the request and indicating the procedures for appealing the denial. R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-3(e). Except for good cause shown, any reason not specifically set forth in the denial shall be deemed waived by the public body. R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-7(a).
Failure to comply with a request to inspect or copy the public record within the ten (10) business day period shall be deemed to be a denial. Except that for good cause, this limit may be extended for a period not to exceed thirty (30) business days. R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-7(b).
The custodian is obligated to make the records available “promptly,” and if they are not made available promptly the custodian has seven business days to: 1) Make the records available; 2) Deny the request in writing, or; 3) State in writing the time it will need to produce the records. T.C.A. § 10-7-503(a)(2)(B). Some custodians have incorrectly believed that this seven day limit defines “promptly,” however, if records are not produced until seven days, that is not prompt. Jetmore v. Metro Gov’t of Nashville 2017 Tenn. App. LEXIS 688 (Tenn. Ct. App Oct. 12, 2017) (practice of providing only three records promptly and, as a matter of policy, only producing others much later was a willful violation of the Act)
Where a request for public information has been made, the officer for public information “shall promptly produce [such] information for inspection, duplication, or both on application.” Tex. Gov’t Code § 552.221(a); Moore, 897 S.W.2d at 499 (the Act requires officers “to produce public [information] upon request”). An officer for public information complies with the Act by providing the public information for inspection or duplication in the offices of the governmental body or by sending copies of the public information by first class mail. Tex. Gov’t Code § 552.221.
The Act requires a governmental body, in the usual case, to produce requested public information as soon as reasonably possible and without delay. Tex. Att’y Gen. No. ORD-664 (2000). What constitutes a reasonable period of time depends on the facts in each case. Id. The volume of information requested is “highly relevant to what constitutes a reasonable period of time.” Id. A reasonable period of time may be less than or greater than ten business days, depending on the circumstances. Id. For example, a governmental body should be able to comply immediately with a request for one specified document that the governmental body has previously released to the public or that the Attorney General has previously determined to be public information, absent unusual circumstances. Id. On the other hand, a request for a voluminous amount of information which requires an extensive search for responsive information might require more than ten business days for production of the information. Id.
The government entity must respond to a written request no later than ten business days after receiving the request. If the request is entitled to expedited treatment, the government entity must respond within five business days after receiving the request. See Utah Code § 63G-2-204(3)(a)
To obtain an expedited response, the requester must demonstrate that the record request benefits the public rather than the individual requester. See id. § 63G-2-204(3)(a). Journalists requesting records for publication or broadcast are presumed to be acting to benefit the public. See id. § 63G-2-204(4).
The government entity shall respond to a person’s written request, within the prescribed time limits, in the following manner:
(i) approving the request and providing the record;
(ii) denying the request;
(iii) notifying the requester that the entity does not maintain the record and providing, if known, the name and address of the government entity that does maintain the record; or
(iv) notifying the requester that because of the extraordinary circumstances listed [in that section of the statute], it cannot immediately approve or deny the request.
Id. § 63G-2-204(3)(a).
A notice of denial shall include (a) a description of the record; (b) citations to the GRAMA provisions that exempt the record from disclosure; (c) a statement that the requester has a right to appeal the denial; and (d) the time limits for filing an appeal and the name and address of the chief administrative officer of the government entity to which the appeal should be made. See id. § 63G-2-205(2).
Waiting periods under the statute are not lengthy. The custodian ordinarily has three business days to search and respond if the request cannot be filled on the spot. 1 V.S.A. § 318(a)(1). However, any time limit (either the initial three-day response period, or the five-day appeal response period under 1 V.S.A. § 318(c)(1)) may be extended up to ten working days by written certification that one (or more) of three “unusual circumstances” exist: (1) need to search or collect records from field offices; (2) need to search or collect voluminous records; or (3) need to consult with another agency. See 12 V.S.A. § 318(b)(5).
West Virginia Code section 29B-1-3(d) mandates:
"The custodian, upon demand for records made under this statute, shall as soon as practicable but within a maximum of five days not including Saturdays, Sundays or legal holidays:
(a) Furnish copies of the requested information;
(b) Advise the person making the request of the time and place at which he may inspect and copy the materials; or
(c) Deny the request stating in writing the reasons for such denial."