Skip to content

1. Who may sue?


  • Alabama

    Any citizen, including any member of the news media (whether a corporation or other business form) and any group with an interest or stake in the controversy, may sue for access to public records. See Ala. Code § 36-12-40; Scott v. Culpepper,220 Ala. 393, 393-94, 125 So. 643, 644 (1930) (county citizen); Chambers v. Birmingham News Co., 552 So. 2d 854 (Ala. 1989) (newspaper); Accident Info. Servs. of Ala. Inc., CV 92-9619 (Cir. Ct. Jefferson Cnty., Ala., Jan. 11, 1993) (corporation); Birmingham Educ. Ass'n v. Birmingham City Bd. of Educ., CV 94-2637 (Cir. Ct. Jefferson Cnty., Ala., Nov. 15, 1995) (professional organization); Walsh v. Barnes, 541 So. 2d 33 (Ala. Civ. App. 1989) (insurance agent).

    view more
  • Alaska

    Anyone who is denied access to records and whose appeal is denied may sue. AS 40.25.124; 2 AAC 96.350. A court must entertain a suit by a person who has not exhausted the "administrative remedies." In Carter v. APEA, the Supreme Court rejected the University's argument that the APEA should have exhausted procedures for obtaining information set by the Labor Relations Agency before suing. "The doctrine is not applicable where the remedy sought is judicial rather than administrative. . . . Resolution of a question of statutory interpretation is judicial rather than administrative." 663 P.2d at 922-923, n. 19. The 1990 revisions of the Public Records Act expressly state that injunctive relief seeking access to public records can be sought without exhausting administrative remedies. AS 40.25.125.

    view more
  • Arizona

    “Any person who has requested to examine or copy public records pursuant to this article, and who has been denied access to or the right to copy such records, may appeal the denial through a special action in the superior court, pursuant to the rules of procedure for special actions against the officer or public body.”  A.R.S. § 39-121.02(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). The Attorney General, acting in his official capacity, is a “citizen” for purposes of this provision. Bryant v. Weiss, 335 Ark. 534, 983 S.W.2d 902 (1998). Consequently, the Attorney General can request the same records that have been sought unsuccessfully by someone else and, upon denial of that request, bring an action under the FOIA to force disclosure.

    view more
  • California

    "Any person may institute a proceeding for injunctive or declaratory relief, or for a writ of mandate, in any court of competent jurisdiction, to enforce that person’s  right to inspect or receive a copy of any public record or class of public records." Cal. Gov't Code § 7923.000. The California Supreme Court has held that the plain meaning of this provision "contemplates a declaratory relief proceeding commenced only by an individual or entity seeking disclosure of public records, and not by the public agency from which disclosure is sought." Filarsky v. Superior Court, 28 Cal. 4th 419, 426, 121 Cal. Rptr. 2d 844, 49 P.3d 194 (2002) (city may not initiate ordinary declaratory relief action to determine its obligation to disclose records to a member of the public as CPRA provides exclusive means for litigating question of whether records must be disclosed).

    view more
  • Colorado

    Any person whose request for access to or inspection of public records has been denied may seek an order directing the custodian to show why inspection should not be permitted. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-72-204(5).

    view more
  • Connecticut

    In Rose v. FOIC, 221 Conn. 217, 602 A.2d 1019 (1992), the Supreme Court held that the phrase “any party aggrieved” in Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-206(d) includes anyone who can show that he or she is aggrieved by an FOIC decision, and does not require that the person show that at the FOIC he or she was actually granted party status or was entitled as of right to be made a party. The person need merely show a specific, personal and legal interest in the subject matter of the FOIC decision which was specially and injuriously affected by that decision. Id. at 230. See also Kelly v. FOIC, 221 Conn. 300, 603 A.2d 1131 (1992) (aggrievement not restricted to persons to whom FOIC order is directed). In Bd. of Pardons v. FOIC, 210 Conn. 646, 556 A.2d 1020 (1989), the Supreme Court held the Board of Pardons to be “aggrieved” for appeal-standing purposes by an FOIC order requiring it to conduct its deliberations in the future in public because since Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-240(b) made noncompliance with an FOIC order a Class B misdemeanor, there existed “a genuine likelihood of criminal liability or civil incarceration” sufficient to confer standing and providing the individual members of the board with “a specific and personal” interest in the validity of the order. In State Library v. FOIC, 240 Conn. 824, 694 A.2d 1235 (1997), the Supreme Court held that a plaintiff may prove aggrievement without an evidentiary hearing in the trial court by relying on facts established in the record as a whole, including the administrative record.

    view more
  • Delaware

    Any citizen, 29 Del. C. § 10005(b), or the Attorney General, id. § 10005(e), may sue.

    view more
  • District of Columbia

    Other than with respect to documents in the possession of the D.C. Council, any individual may commence court proceedings to challenge the withholding of documents if: (a) no response is made within the statutory time period following the initial request; (b) the Mayor denies an appeal; (c) the Mayor fails to act on an appeal within the statutory time period; or (d) an agency has failed to release documents, even though the Mayor has authorized the documents to be released. D.C. Code Ann. § 2-537(a)(1), (2).

    Any person denied the right to inspect a public record in the possession of the D.C. Council may initiate court proceedings to challenge the withholding. D.C. Code Ann. § 2-537(a-1).

    view more
  • Florida

    Florida courts have not addressed the issue of who may sue to enforce rights under Chapter 119.  However, as discussed supra, the statute provides “any person” with the right of access to public records, and thus standing to sue. As of July 1, 2021, a public agency may not file a declaratory action in response to a public records request to determine whether an exemption applies or whether a record is in fact a public record subject to the Public Records Law. See Fla. Stat. § 119.07(9).

    view more
  • Georgia

    Any person, firm, corporation, or other entity may sue to enforce compliance, O.C.G.A. § 50-18-73(a), but only with respect to requests made in writing, § 50-18-71(b)(3).

    The Attorney General also has specific statutory authority to bring actions to enforce compliance with the Act and to seek either civil or criminal penalties or both. § 50-18-73(a).

    view more
  • Hawaii

    The UIPA provides that any person (including corporations) aggrieved by a denial of access to a government record may bring an action in the state circuit court against the agency to compel disclosure. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 92F-15. A "person" includes an individual, corporation, government, or governmental subdivision or agency, business trust, estate, trust, partnership, association or any other legal entity. Id. § 92F-3. The court shall hear the matter de novo and may review the documents in question in camera if necessary. Id. § 92F-15(b).

    A person filing an action in state circuit court must notify the OIP in writing at the time of filing to allow the OIP the opportunity to intervene. Id. § 92F-15.3 (Supp. 1999).

    view more
  • Idaho

    The “sole remedy” for a “person aggrieved” by the denial of a request for inspection is to institute proceedings in the district court of the county where the records are located. Idaho Code § 74-115(1). The statute is not specific as to who is considered aggrieved by such a denial but unquestionably the person requesting the record may initiate a Court action to protest the denial. It is not clear whether a person who did not actually make the request but was aggrieved as a result of the denial requested by another person, would be able to seek redress.

    view more
  • Illinois

    Any person denied access to inspect or copy any public record by a public body may file a suit for injunctive or declaratory relief. See 5 ILCS 140/11(a). A public body may file suit to initiate an administrative review of a binding opinion of the Attorney General. See 5 ILCS 140/11.5.

    view more
  • Indiana

    Any person or organization who has been denied the right to inspect or copy a public record by a public agency may file an action in the circuit or superior court of the county in which the denial occurred. Ind. Code § 5-14-3-9(e).

    view more
  • Iowa

    "Any aggrieved person, any taxpayer to or citizen of the state of Iowa, or the attorney general or any county attorney may seek judicial enforcement." Iowa Code § 22.10(1).

    view more
  • Kansas

    Any person aggrieved by a violation. K.S.A. 45-222(a). This includes the Attorney General, as well as county and district attorneys.  As of 2015, the Attorney General’s Office may also bring an action in the district court as a means of enforcing consent orders against offending agencies.  See K.S.A. 45-251(c)(1) and (2).

    view more
  • Kentucky

    A requester may file an original action in Circuit Court to enforce the Open Records Act and is not required to seek the Attorney General's review before doing so. Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.882(2).

    The parties to an Open Records Act appeal or original action are typically only the requester and the public agency.  The Attorney General must be notified of original actions and appeals of Attorney General decisions, but may not be named as a party. See Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.880(3).

    In Beckham v. Board of Educ. of Jefferson County, 873 S.W.2d 575 (Ky. 1994), the Court permitted teachers to intervene in an Open Records Act lawsuit brought by a newspaper against a board of education. The records which the newspaper sought included disciplinary actions and grievances against the teachers. The court literally interpreted Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.882(1), which empowers Circuit Courts to enforce the Open Records Act “by injunction or other appropriate order on application of any person.” 873 S.W.2d at 578. In Lawson v. Office of the AG, 415 S.W.3d 59 (Ky. 2013), the Court held that a person’s standing to oppose a public agency’s disclosure of public records is limited to the disclosure exemptions that are designed to protect the person’s individual interests. In that case, the Court held the individual could assert his personal privacy interests under Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.878(1)(a) but lacked standing to assert that the law enforcement exemption, Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.878(1)(h), applied because it was designed to protect the interests of law enforcement agencies and not individuals.

    view more
  • Louisiana

    "Any person who has been denied the right to inspect or copy a record. . . ." La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 44:35A.

    view more
  • Maine

    Any person "aggrieved by a refusal or denial to inspect or copy a record” or failure of an agency or official to comply with the Act may appeal the refusal, denial or failure to comply to Superior Court.  1 M.R.S.A. § 409(1).

    view more
  • Maryland

    The person or governmental unit denied access to a public record may file a complaint with the circuit court for the county where the complainant resides or has a principal place of business or where the public record is located. § 4-362(a); Attorney Grievance Comm'n v. Abell, 294 Md. 680, 452 A.2d 656 (1982). Blythe v. State, 161 Md. App. 492, 505, 870 A.2d 1246, 1253, cert. granted, 388 Md. 97, 879 A.2d 42 (2005).

    view more
  • Massachusetts

    Any person whose written request to the records custodian has been denied, or not acted on for ten days, may sue. If instead an administrative appeal is taken and the custodian refuses to comply with an order of the Supervisor of Public Records, then the Supervisor may ask the District Attorney or Attorney General to enforce the order. G.L. c. 66, § 10(b). Historically, the Attorney General has not always honored such requests. The Superior Court and the Supreme Judicial Court are empowered to order compliance with the Supervisor’s ruling.  Id.

    view more
  • Michigan

    Any person whose FOIA request has been denied in whole or in part may commence an action in the state circuit court under Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.240.

    Several items under Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.241 must be published and made available to the public even when not specifically requested. A person may commence an action in the court of claims to compel a state agency to comply with Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.241. Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.241(5).

    A person seeking to enjoin rather than compel disclosure of public records may file a "reverse FOIA" action, but the FOIA analysis applies in those cases and a "reverse FOIA" plaintiff may not have standing to raise certain exemptions. Bradley v. Saranac Cmty. Sch., 455 Mich. 285 (1997).

    A plaintiff’s right to prohibit disclosure must have a basis independent of FOIA. Tobin v. Mich. Civil Serv., 416 Mich. 661, 331 N.W.2d 184 (1980).

    view more
  • Minnesota

    Any person who suffers damages as a result of a violation of the Act may sue. Minn. Stat. § 13.08, subd. 1. The responsible authority (generally the individual designated as responsible for the collection, use and dissemination of government data) may be sued in addition to the government entity. Id.; Minn. Stat. § 13.02, subd. 16.

    view more
  • Mississippi

    Any person who is denied the right to inspect and/or copy public records may sue. § 25-61-13; Board of Trustees v. Van Slyke, 510 So. 2d 490 (Miss. 1987). Also, third parties who furnish to public bodies records which contain trade secrets or confidential information may sue to obtain a court order protecting such records as confidential. § 25-61-9(1); Mississippi Health Care Ass'n State of Mississippi, No. 134,127 (Hinds Co. Chancery Ct., April 12, 1988).

    view more
  • Missouri

    Any aggrieved person, taxpayer, or citizen of Missouri, the Attorney General or prosecuting attorney may seek judicial enforcement of the requirements of the Sunshine Law. Mo.Rev.Stat. § 610.027.1.

    view more
  • Montana

    Any "person" has standing to sue in district court to obtain relief under the constitution and Public Records Act, Mont. Const., Art. II, § 9.

    view more
  • Nebraska

    "Any person" denied rights granted by the public records law may seek a writ of mandamus, compelling disclosure of the record. Neb. Rev. Stat. §84-712.03(1). In addition, under §84-712.03(2), if the attorney general determines that withheld records should be made public, he must demand that the custodian disclose the records. If the custodian does not comply with the attorney general's direction, the attorney general must bring suit in the name of the state. The requester has an absolute right to intervene in any suit brought by the attorney general. Id.

    view more
  • Nevada

    Any requester of records may apply to the district court for an order permitting inspection or copying or for an order requiring the governmental entity to provide a copy to the requester. NRS 239.011(1).

    view more
  • New Hampshire

    "Any person aggrieved by a violation of this chapter" may sue. RSA 91-A:7

    view more
  • New Jersey

    Any "citizen" of New Jersey who has been denied the right to inspect, copy, or obtain a copy of public record may bring an action to enforce the rights granted under OPRA or the common law. Irval Realty Inc. v. Board of Public Utility Comm'rs, 61 N.J. 366 (1972). "Citizen" includes newspapers published or circulated in New Jersey and any private commercial enterprise, even if motivated solely by "private pecuniary gain." Techniscan Corp. v. Passaic Valley Water Comm’n, 218 N.J. Super. 226, 229 (App. Div. 1987).

    Although OPRA expressly provides that “government records shall be readily accessible…by citizens of this State” (N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1), the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office has advised of its position that OPRA does not prohibit access by residents of other States.

    See also In the Matter of the New Jersey Firemens Assn Obligation to Provide Relief Applications Under the Open Public Records Act, 230 N.J. 258 (2017), which involved the filing by the Association of a declaratory judgment action in response to an OPRA request so as to obtain a judicial determination of its responsibilities under OPRA.  The Court held that the declaratory judgment action was improper because at the time it was filed the Association had already made a determination of its legal obligation with respect to the requested records and denied access to same, thereby extinguishing the controversy between the parties.  The Supreme Court further held that once the Association denied access to the requested records, N.J.S.A. 47:1A-6 authorized only the plaintiff to seek judicial review of that decision. The Supreme Court expressly left open the question of “whether a public entity may file a pre-denial declaratory judgment action when confronted with an unsettled question that has not been litigated before and that implicates OPRA’s privacy prong, N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1.”

    view more
  • New Mexico

    The Attorney General, the District Attorney, or any person whose written request has been denied. NMSA 1978 § 14-2-12(A).

    view more
  • New York

    Any person who is denied access to a record following an administrative appeal may bring a judicial proceeding for review of such denial pursuant to Article 78 of the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules. N.Y. Pub. Off. Law § 89(4)(b).

    While requesters have express authority to pursue a judicial remedy under FOIL, agencies do not, and courts have rejected efforts by an agency to sue under the law. See Michael v. Communications Workers of America, 130 Misc.2d 424, 495 N.Y.S.2d 569 (Sup. Ct. 1985) (a governmental agency cannot be merged with the “public” and therefore lacks standing to initiate suit under FOIL). Contra Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board v. Adirondack Park Agency, No. 273-81 (Sup. Ct., Essex Cty., June 24, 1981) (public board had capacity to initiate action under FOIL). See also Town of Woodstock v. Goodson-Todman Enter., 133 Misc.2d 12, 505 N.Y.S.2d 540 (Sup. Ct. 1986) (holding that town’s declaratory judgment action was improper as essentially involving the issuance of an advisory opinion).

    Further, the FOIL statute does not specifically give an individual who did not request documents the right to intervene. In order to intervene, an individual must demonstrate that he has the right to intervene by showing that he is of the class to be protected by the statute and that the intent of the statute would allow intervention. Rainbow News 12 Co. v. District Att’y of Suffolk Cty., Index No: 1487/92 (Sup. Ct. Suffolk Cty. July 31, 1992) (holding that the person to which the requested records applied could not intervene). Similarly, the Public Officer’s Law does not provide for a cause of action against private parties, but only against government agencies. George v. New York Newsday, N.Y.L.J. (Sup. Ct., New York Cty., October 4, 1994).

    view more
  • North Carolina

    The Public Records Law provides that “any person” who is denied access to public records may apply to the appropriate division of the General Court of Justice for an order compelling disclosure. G.S. § 132-9.

    view more
  • North Dakota

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

    view more
  • Oklahoma

    Any person denied access may bring a civil action. 51 O.S. § 24A.17(B).

    view more
  • Oregon

    Any party dissatisfied with the appeal review may sue. A public body must issue notice of intent to sue within seven days and must institute suit within a subsequent seven days. ORS 192.411(2); ORS 192.415 (formerly ORS 192.450; ORS 192.460).

    view more
  • Pennsylvania

    A requester or agency may file an appeal of a final determination by the Office of Open Records. 65 Pa. C.S.A. § 67.1301(a). In addition, The Commonwealth Court has held that appeals filed by third parties that participated before the Office of Open Records proceeding are appropriate under the Law. Baron v. Dep’t of Human Servs., 169 A.3d 1268 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2017); Pa. Dep’t of Educ. v. Bagwell, 131 A.3d 638 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2016); W. Chester Univ. of Pa. v. Schackner, 124 A.3d 382 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2015). Filing a petition for review in either Commonwealth Court or a Court of Common Pleas automatically stays the release of the requested government records until a decision is rendered by the court. 65 Pa. C.S.A. §§ 67.1301(b), 67.1302(b). The Office of Open Records is not a party and should not be named in the lawsuit. But see Pa. State Educ. Ass’n ex rel. Wilson v. Dep’t of Cmty. & Econ. Dev., 50 A.3d 1263 (Pa. 2012) (OOR was an indispensable party to the lawsuit).

    The Law remains silent on the issue of whether it is possible to bring a declaratory judgment action seeking a ruling that certain documents are or are not public records. In a case brought under the old act, the Commonwealth Court permitted the successful bidder on a government contract to bring a declaratory judgment action (in the form of a petition for review) for a declaration that certain documents not be produced by DOT to a competitor under the Act. Envirotest Partners v. Commonwealth Dep’t of Transp., 664 A.2d 208 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 1995).

    view more
  • Rhode Island

    Any person or entity seeking access or the Attorney General.

    view more
  • South Carolina

    "Any citizen of the State" may bring suit. "Citizen" would include corporations. S.C. Code Ann. § 30-4-100(A). Because the state may not give citizen to residents of the state, it is an open question whether a U.S. citizen that resides outside South Carolina may bring suit.

    view more
  • South Dakota

    Presumably any requestor who has had request denied in whole or in part by a public records officer or objects to the officer’s fee or time estimate. SDCL §1-27-38.

    view more
  • Tennessee

    Any citizen of Tennessee may request to inspect a record and shall be entitled to request access subject to judicial review. T.C.A. § 10-7-505(a).

    view more
  • Texas

    Section 552.321(a) provides that if a governmental body refuses to request an Attorney General's decision or to supply public information, the person requesting the information or the Attorney General may file suit for a writ of mandamus compelling the governmental body to make the information available to the public. Such mandamus suits are controlled by the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure. Nothing in the Act, case law, or Attorney General opinions state what mandamus approach is preferred and some open records actions have been litigated as normal civil lawsuits. Amendments made to the Act in 1999 permit actions for declaratory judgment or injunctive relief to be brought against a governmental body that violates the Act. Tex. Gov't Code § 552.3215.

    A governmental body may file a declaratory judgment action against the Attorney General to determine its rights and liabilities under the Act. City of Garland v. Dallas Morning News, 22 S.W.3d 351 (Tex. 2000). However, the only suit a governmental body or officer for public information may file seeking to withhold information from a requestor is a suit that is filed in accordance with Sections 552.325 or 552.353, and must be brought no later than the thirtieth calendar day after the governmental body receives notice of the Attorney General’s decision that the information must be disclosed. Tex. Gov't Code § 552.324. A governmental body, officer for public information, or other person or entity that files suit seeking to withhold information from the requestor may not file suit against the requestor, although the requestor is entitled to intervene in the suit. Tex. Gov't Code § 552.325(a). The governmental body must make a timely good faith effort to notify the requestor of the existence of the suit and inform the requestor, among other things, of his right to intervene. Tex. Gov't Code § 552.325(b).

    view more
  • Utah

    Any individual may appeal the State Records Committee’s or the government entity’s decision by filing a petition with the district court. See Utah Code § 63G-2-404(5).

    view more
  • Vermont

    “Any person aggrieved by the denial of a request for public records” can file a court action at the trial level to obtain a de novo review of the administrative decision; the court’s review can include in camera inspection, and the court is specifically authorized to segregate disclosable from non-disclosable records. 1 V.S.A. § 319(a). The agency bears the burden of persuading the court that the refusal to disclose is correct.

    view more
  • Virginia

    Any person, including the attorney for the Commonwealth (in Virginia this is the local prosecutor) acting in his official or individual capacity, denied the rights and privileges conferred by the Act may proceed to enforce such rights and privileges by filing a petition for mandamus or injunction. Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-3713.A.

    view more
  • Washington

    An action may be brought by a requester, by the agency, or by any person “named in the record or to whom the record specifically pertains.” RCW 42.56.540; id. 42.56.550.

    view more
  • West Virginia

    Just as "any person" may request access to records under the Freedom of Information Act, "any person denied the right to inspect the public record of a public body" may sue to enforce that right. W. Va. Code § 29B-1-5(1).

    view more
  • Wisconsin

    The sole means for enforcing a request for inspection of a public record is an action for mandamus maintained by the requester, the district attorney or the attorney general. Wis. Stat. § 19.37(1). The subject of a record may sue to block release of the record. Wis. Stat. § 19.356.

    view more
  • Wyoming

    The person who is denied access to the record. See, e.g., Wyo. R. Civ. P. 17.

    view more