Skip to content

1. Who may sue?

Posts

  • Alabama

    Any media organization, the Alabama attorney general, or the district attorney for the circuit in which the governmental body is located may file a civil action to enforce the Alabama Open Meetings Act. Ala. Code § 36-25A-9(a).  Any Alabama citizen may also file suit if the alleged violation impacts the citizen more than the impact on the public at large.  The citizen has the burden of pleading how the personal impact of the violation is greater than the impact on the general public in its initial pleading.  Id.

    No member of a governmental body may serve as a plaintiff in an action brought against another member of the same governmental body for an alleged violation of the Act. Id.

    view more
  • Alaska

    As a general rule, any person or legal entity aggrieved by a decision of an agency or personally affected adversely by it may sue. The courts have generally recognized the rights of news media to sue over open meetings violations, recognizing that they represent the public interest and stand in the place of the public in obtaining access to public meetings.

    view more
  • Arizona

    An action may be brought by (1) any person affected by an alleged violation of the OML, (2) the Arizona attorney general, (3) or the county attorney for the county in which the alleged violation occurred.  A.R.S. § 38-431.07(A).

    view more
  • Arkansas

    “Any citizen denied the rights granted him by [the FOIA] may appeal immediately from the denial.” Ark. Code Ann. § 25-19-107(a).

    view more
  • California

    Technically, there is no administrative decision for the court to review. Violations or threatened violations of the Bagley-Keene and Brown Acts may be challenged by filing an action against the entity in the Superior Court. Cal. Gov't Code §§ 11130, 11130.3 (Bagley-Keene Act); 54960, 54960.1 (Brown Act). Under the Brown Act, before a person may file an action in court challenging an action (vote) taken by the legislative body as "null and void," he or she must demand that the legislative body cure or correct an action taken in violation of certain provisions. Cal. Gov't Code § 54960.1(b). Similarly, before a person may file an action in court seeking a determination on whether a past action of the legislative body violates the Brown Act, he or she must send a cease and desist letter. Cal. Gov’t Code § 54960.2.

    Any California citizen has standing to sue a legislative body for violating the Brown Act, even if the citizen does not live in the county or city where the alleged violation occurred. McKee v. Orange Unified School District, 110 Cal. App. 4th 1310, 1316, 2 Cal. Rptr. 3d 774 (2003). Standing is not limited to persons; a newspaper labor union has standing to bring a Brown Act lawsuit. Sacramento Newspaper Guild v. Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, 263 Cal. App. 2d 41, 46, 69 Cal. Rptr. 480 (1968).  However, a member of the governing body does not have standing to sue for violations of the Brown Act as a member of the general public unless he or she has a personal stake in the outcome of the relief sought. Galbiso v. Orosi Public Utility Dist., 182 Cal. App. 4th 652, 668-69, 107 Cal. Rptr. 3d 36 (2010); see also Holbrook v. City of Santa Monica, 144 Cal. App. 4th 1242, 1257, 51 Cal. Rptr. 3d 181 (2006).

    Additionally, under both a district attorney is authorized to commence an action by mandamus, injunction or declaratory relief for purposes of stopping or preventing violations or threatened violations of the Act or to determine the applicability of the Act to past actions or threatened future actions by members of the state body or by the legislative body, or to determine whether any action by the state or legislative body to penalize the expression of any of its members is valid. Cal. Gov't Code §§ 11130(a) (Bagley-Keene Act); 54960(a) (Brown Act). Under the Bagley-Keene Act, the California Attorney General also is authorized to bring these actions. Cal. Gov't Code § 11130(a).

    view more
  • Colorado

    In 2014, the General Assembly enacted legislation providing that “[a]ny person denied or threatened with denial of any of the rights that are conferred on the public by [the Open Meetings Law] has suffered an injury in fact, and therefore, has standing to challenge the violation.” Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-6-402(9)(a).

    Courts have recognized that, by using this language, the Open Meetings Law “creates a legally protected interest on behalf of Colorado citizens in having public bodies conduct business openly in conformity with its provisions,” and violations can cause an injury in fact. Weisfield v. City of Arvada, 361 P.3d 1069, 1073 (Colo. App.2015) (city council’s secret ballot caused injury in fact to city resident because he “does not know how each council member voted”). However, other courts have declined to find an injury in fact for a violation alone, particularly where the plaintiff had actual knowledge of and attended an improperly noticed meeting. Downs Douglas v. Mountain Song Cmty. Sch., No. 15-cv-01056-KLM, 2016 WL 1537148, at *8 (D. Colo. Apr. 15, 2016) (“Plaintiff’s allegations that she had actual notice of and attended the meetings . . . are fatal to her OML claim in the absence of any other specified injury in fact.”).

    view more
  • Connecticut

    See Records Outline at V.D.

    view more
  • Delaware

    Any Delaware citizen or the Delaware Attorney General may initiate an action regarding an open meeting violation. 29 Del. C. § 10005(e).

    view more
  • District of Columbia

    The Open Meetings Act establishes an Open Government Office, D.C. Code Ann. § 2-592, that may bring a lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court for injunctive or declaratory relief for any violation of the Act before or after the meeting in question takes place.  D.C. Code Ann. § 2-579(a).  The Act explicitly states that nothing in it shall be construed to create or imply a private cause of action for a violation.  Id. § 2-579(a)(1).  The Act also states, however, that nothing in it shall restrict the private right of action citizens have under § 1-207.42.  Id. § 2-579(a)(2).  No court has specifically considered what private rights of action § 1-207.42 creates.  Cf. Smith v. Henderson, 982 F. Supp. 2d 32, 48 (D.D.C. 2013) (dismissing Sunshine Act claim against D.C. Public Schools on the merits after holding that plaintiffs had Article III standing).   However, a line D.C. Court of Appeals cases interpreting identical language from the Open Meeting Act's predecessor appears to assume, without deciding, that private citizens may bring suits to invalidate official actions that violate the open meetings rule.  See Jordan v. District of Columbia, 362 A.2d 114, 117-19 (D.C. 1976); see also Bernstein v. D.C. Bd. of Zoning Adjustment, 376 A.2d 816, 820 n.12 (D.C. 1977) (affirming Jordan); Dupont Circle Citizens Ass'n v. D.C. Bd. of Zoning Adjustment, 364 A.2d 610, 613-14 (D.C. 1976) (same).

    view more
  • Georgia

    A suit to enforce compliance with the Act may be brought "by any person, firm, corporation, or other entity." O.C.G.A. § 50-14-5(a). In addition, the Attorney General may bring civil or criminal actions to enforce compliance with the Act. § 50-14-5(a).

    view more
  • Hawaii

    Any person may commence suit for an alleged violation of the open meetings law. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 92-12(c) (1996); see Kaapu v. Aloha Tower Dev. Corp., 74 Haw. 365, 383, 846 P.2d 882, 889 (1993) (Section 92-12 entitles any person to commence a suit regardless of the person's participation in the public meeting).

    view more
  • Idaho

    “Any person affected by a violation” of the Open Meeting Law may bring an action for the purpose of requiring compliance with the law or to have an action declared null and void. Idaho Code § 74-208(6). There is no specific definition of “affected” provided in the Open Meetings Law. Although representatives of local agencies argued during the 1992 amendment process that such actions should be limited only to those directly damaged by a violation, the language of the statute could allow a person who feels “shut out” of the decision process to also bring an action under the law.

    In Arnold v. City of Stanley, 158 Idaho 218, 345 P.3d 1008 (2015),  the Idaho Supreme Court held that the plaintiffs were not affected by the alleged violation of the Open Meeting Law and therefore did not have standing to bring their challenge. The court held that the plaintiffs were not affected, as required by the statute, where citizens had made no attempt to attend the meeting, and had their comments read into the record at the meeting, and the only alleged violation was an early start to the meeting and failure to amend the meeting notice to account for that change.

    view more
  • Illinois

    A civil action may be brought either by a private party (such as a news organization) or the State's Attorney. See 5 ILCS 120/3(a).

    view more
  • Indiana

    Anyone may file an action for declaratory or injunctive relief to ensure compliance with the statute. Ind. Code § 5-14-1.5-7(a), and “[t]he plaintiff need not allege or prove special damage different from that suffered by the public at large.” Id.

    The Indiana Court of Appeals previously held that a county board lacks standing to sue because it is not an Indiana “citizen.” Board of Comm’rs. v. Jones, 457 N.E.2d 580, 590 (Ind. App. 1983). However, the same result may not occur today, as Indiana Code Section 5-14-1.5-7(a) has since been amended to allow “any person” to file an action, and “person” is defined as “an individual, a corporation, a limited liability company, a partnership, an unincorporated association, or a governmental entity.” Ind. Code § 5-14-1.5-2(k) (emphasis added).

    view more
  • Iowa

    a. Open Meetings Act: "Any aggrieved person, taxpayer to, or citizen of, the state of Iowa, or the attorney general or county attorney . . . ." Iowa Code § 21.6(1).

    b. Administrative Procedures Act: "A person or party who was exhausted all adequate administrative remedies and who is aggrieved or adversely affected . . . ." Iowa Code § 17A.19(1).

    view more
  • Kansas

    The attorney general or county and district attorneys have exclusive power to seek penalties or to void actions. K.S.A. 75-4320. Otherwise, "any person" may sue. K.S.A. 75-4320a.

    view more
  • Kentucky

    After receiving the written response from the public agency to his or her written complaint of an alleged violation of the Open Meetings Act, a complaining party may bypass the Attorney General and proceed straight to judicial action. Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.848(2). The action is brought in the Circuit Court of the county where the public agency has its principal place of business or where the alleged violation occurred. Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.848(1). The complaining party must file suit within 60 days from his receipt of the written denial from the public agency. Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.848(2).

    Either the complaining party or the public agency may appeal the decision of the Attorney General by filing a timely action in Circuit Court. Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.848(4)(a).

    The Kentucky Supreme Court has interpreted the Open Records Act to permit interested parties to intervene in Open Records Act cases, with certain limitations. See Beckham v. Board of Educ. of Jefferson County, 873 S.W.2d 575 (Ky. 1994); Lawson v. Office of the AG, 415 S.W.3d 59 (Ky. 2013). It is probable the Court would permit the same with Open Meetings Act lawsuits.

    view more
  • Louisiana

    Any person who has been denied any right conferred by the Open Meeting Law or who has reason to believe that the law has been violated. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 42:25(C).

    view more
  • Maine

    Any aggrieved person may appeal the refusal or denial of a request to inspect a record or challenge a closed meeting.  1 M.R.S.A. § 409.

    view more
  • Maryland

    Any person adversely affected by the public body's action may petition the court for relief. § 3-401(b).

    view more
  • Massachusetts

    Attorney General, local District Attorney or "three or more registered voters." G.L. c. 39, §  23B. In case of county or municipal body, "registered" presumably means registered in the particular county or municipality. A decision of Single Justice of Appeals Court holds that a person who is not a registered voter has no standing to bring enforcement action. The three voter requirement will be strictly enforced. See Vining Disposal Service Inc. v. Board of Selectmen of Westford, 416 Mass. 35, 616 N.E.2d 1065 (1993) (public contract bidder alone lacks standing to challenge selectmen's alleged violation of OML).

    view more
  • Michigan

    "The attorney general, the prosecuting attorney of the county in which the public body serves, or any person may commence a civil action in the circuit court to challenge the validity of a decision of a public body made in violation of [the OMA]." Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.270(1).

    view more
  • Montana

    Any "person" within the meaning of the Montana Constitution may bring this petition to enforce constitutional rights.

    view more
  • Nebraska

    "Any citizen of this state" may sue in district court in county in which public body meets to seek compliance with Public Meeting Law. Neb. Rev. Stat. §84-1414(3).

    view more
  • Nevada

    The Attorney General and any person denied a right conferred by the law may sue. NRS 241.037.

    view more
  • New Jersey

    "Any person" may bring a suit in Superior Court "for injunctive orders or other remedies" to ensure compliance with the Sunshine Law or to void any action taken by a public body in noncompliance with the Sunshine Law. N.J.S.A. 10:4-15 and 10:4-16.

    view more
  • New Mexico

    Any person may enforce the purpose of the Open Meetings Act by injunction or mandamus or other appropriate order.  NMSA 1978 § 10-15-3(C).

    view more
  • North Carolina

    The Open Meetings Law provides that “any person” may institute a suit seeking relief under the Open Meetings Law, G.S. § § 143-318.16 and 143-318.16(a). The North Carolina Court of Appeals decided in a 2004 case that “any person” does not include the government. City of Burlington v. Boney Publishers, Inc., 166 N.C. App. 186, 600 S.E.2d 872 (2004). The Court of Appeals agreed and found that “[b]ased on the purpose of promoting openness in the daily workings of public bodies, and the policy consideration for disclosure under the act, it was error for the trial court to allow a public body to file a declaratory judgment action in the instant case.” Id. at 192, 600 S.E.2d at 876 (internal punctuation omitted). The City sought review from the N.C. Supreme Court which, after briefing and oral argument, ruled that discretionary review had been improvidently granted. City of Burlington v. Boney Publishers Inc., 359 N.C. 422, 611 S.E.2d 833 (2005).

    view more
  • North Dakota

    An “interested person or entity” may sue. N.D.C.C. § 44-04-21.2(1).

    view more
  • Ohio

    "Any person" may sue to enforce the duties imposed by the statute, and the elements of irreparable harm or prejudice to that person are conclusively and irrebuttably presumed. Ohio Rev. Code §§ 121.22(I)(1),(3).

    view more
  • Oklahoma

    The Oklahoma Open Meeting Act confers a private right of action on the part of any member of the general public who claims to be aggrieved by the actions of a public body.  Rabin v. Bartlesville Redevelopment Trust Authority, 2013 OK CIV APP 72.

    view more
  • Oregon

    Under ORS 192.680(2) any person affected by a decision of a governing body may commence litigation over public meetings violations.

    One word of caution: a person bringing suit under the Public Meetings Law risks the potential for a defendant public official or government body responding by filing a Special Motion to Strike under Oregon’s “anti-SLAPP” law, ORS 31.150 et seq. If a defendant’s anti-SLAPP motion is successful, the defendant will be entitled to recovery of reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.

    It would seem safe to presume that it was not the Oregon Legislature’s intent in enacting an anti-
    “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation” to discourage citizens from using authorized court procedures to seek greater access to government meetings.  But that may be the effect of how the special motion to strike procedure was used in the trial court in Handy v. Lane, where the trial court granted the defendants’ anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss the claims brought under the Public Meetings Law. See Handy v. Lane, 360 Or. 605 (2016). Although the Oregon Supreme Court’s subsequent decision in this case noted that it was not specifically deciding the applicability of ORS 31.150 to the specific issue on review, see 360 Or. at 616 and n. 8, the possible applicability of ORS 31.150 in future cases should be considered.

    view more
  • Rhode Island

    “Any individual” may file a complaint in the Superior Court on his/her own behalf.  R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-46-8(c).

    view more
  • South Carolina

    Any citizen of the state, including corporations. S.C. Code Ann. § 30-4-100. It is unconstitutional for a state to confer citizenship upon a person, so the author to this update interprets this language, which has not yet been interpreted, to mean a U.S. citizen who is a resident of South Carolina.

    view more
  • South Dakota

    Presumably any aggrieved member of the public, but courts' concept of standing may vary in cases in which a party is not affected or not a resident of a particular body's jurisdiction.

    view more
  • Tennessee

    Any citizen of Tennessee can bring suit to enforce the Act. T.C.A. § 8-44-106(a) (1995). “[A] threshold showing of an Open Meetings Act violation is sufficient to confer standing on any citizen.” Fannon v. City of LaFollette, 329 S.W. 3d 418 (Tenn. 2010); See Curve Elementary School Parent & Teachers Org. v. Lauderdale County Sch. Bd., 608 S.W.2d 855 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1980) (school parent and teacher association had standing to bring an action to enforce the Act because its individual members had standing); Metropolitan Air Research Testing Auth. Inc. v. Metro. Gov't of Nashville, 17 TAM 31-12 (Tenn. Ct. App. Feb. 10, 1994) (Tennessee corporation whose principal place of business is in Tennessee has standing to sue under the Sunshine Act); Helton v. City of East Ridge, 18 TAM 20-28 (Tenn. Ct. App. April 22, 1993) (stating that plaintiffs had standing based on Tenn. Code Ann. § 8-44-106(a)); City of Hendersonville v. City of Goodlettsville, 19 TAM 32-6 (Tenn. Ct. App. July 13, 1994) (requiring distinct palpable injury and a causal connection between the injury and challenged conduct in order to have standing).

    view more
  • Texas

    Section 551.142 provides that an “interested person,” including members of the news media, may commence an action. Tex. Gov’t Code§ 551.142; see Finlan, 888 F. Supp. at 783 (a taxpayer citizen of the City of Dallas was an “interested person” with standing to seek an injunction to prohibit violations of the Act by an ad hoc sports development committee created to consider the construction of a new sports facility); City of Bells v. Greater Texoma Utility Authority, 744 S.W.2d 636, 639-40 (Tex. App.—Dallas 1987, no writ) (City had standing to sue regarding utility authority’s violations of the Act whereas result of meeting held in violation of this section, City was sued and placed in position of either posting two million dollar bond or forever losing any claims it had against utility authority)

    view more
  • Utah

    The Open Meetings Act states that any “person denied any right under this chapter may commence suit . . . to compel compliance with or enjoin violations of this chapter or . . . determine the chapter’s applicability to discussions or decisions of a public body.” Utah Code § 52-4-303(3).

    view more
  • Vermont

    “[T]he Attorney General or any person aggrieved by a violation of the provisions of this subchapter may bring an action in the Civil Division of the Superior Court in the county in which the violation has taken place for appropriate injunctive relief or for a declaratory judgment.”  1 V.S.A. § 314(c).  The Vermont Supreme Court has held that a plaintiff “must plead sufficient injury to a protected interest to show they are aggrieved under the statute and therefore have standing to challenge any alleged violation of the law.”  Town of Brattleboro v. Garfield, 2006 VT 56, ¶¶ 16-19, 904 A.2d 1157, 1163-64 (Vt. 2006); see also Blum v. Friedman, 172 Vt. 622, 624, 782 A.2d 1204, 1207 (Vt. 2001) (holding plaintiff pled sufficient injury where he was denied admission to a meeting at which the town was conducting negotiations but not taking any formal action).  In Town of Brattleboro, the court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the Open Meeting Law claim because the plaintiff failed to allege how he was harmed by the town’s failure to post a copy of the notice the requisite twenty-four hours in advance of the meeting.  Town of Brattleboro, 2006 VT at ¶ 19, 904 A.2d at 1164.

    view more
  • Virginia

    Any citizen of the Commonwealth, including the Commonwealth's Attorney, who has been denied the rights and privileges under the Act. Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-3713.A.

    view more
  • Washington

    Any person may bring a suit in the local county court. RCW 42.30.120, .130.

    view more
  • West Virginia

    Any "citizen" of this state may file a petition challenging the action of a public agency under the Open Meetings Act. W. Va. Code §§ 6-9A-3 and 6. Only a person "adversely affected" by a decision may have the decision invalidated solely on the grounds the body gave improper notice of the meeting. W. Va. Code § 6-9A-3.

    view more
  • Wisconsin

    Only the attorney general or local district attorney may sue unless a complaint has been made to the district attorney and that attorney has refused to sue. Then, any person who requested action may proceed.

    view more
  • Wyoming

    "Any aggrieved or adversely affected in fact by a final decision of any agency." One must exhaust all administrative remedies before seeking judicial review. Wyo. Stat. § 16-3-114(a) (1977, Rev. 1982).  In Cheyenne Newspapers v. City of Cheyenne Building Code Board of Appeals, the Court affirmed the right of the public and the media as its representative as having standing to contest violations of the Act.

    view more