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2. Does the law cover oral requests?

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  • Alabama

    Alabama's Public Records Law is silent as to the manner of making the request. In most instances, it is sufficient to make the request initially in person or by telephone. If appropriate, the agency to which the request is made may—but is not required to—give the requested information by telephone. 223 Op. Att'y Gen. Ala. 16 (April 18, 1991).

    Some governmental entities require requesters to complete a written request form. Requiring such a form is permissible if that requirement (a) is not "implemented . . . in order to dissuade or prevent any individual from acquiring access to public documents or records" and (b) does not give the custodian "the power to hinder access or refuse disclosure based on perceived necessity or established office policy." Blankenship v. Hoover, 590 So. 2d 245, 250 (Ala. 1991).

    The requester typically does not have to make arrangements beforehand to inspect and copy public records unless the records require time for search or retrieval, or delay is genuinely necessary to avoid undue interference with the workings of the custodian's office.

    There is no required manner of memorializing the refusal. It is important to make some written record (notes, internal memo, etc.) of the dates of the oral request and the refusal so that the history of the request can be narrated in the complaint if a lawsuit is filed for access to the requested records.

    A written record should be made and kept of all subsequent steps taken so that the history of the request can be narrated in the complaint if a lawsuit is filed for access to the requested records.

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  • Alaska

    Oral requests for records are considered valid requests under the state's public information regulations. Under regulations applicable to requests for records of state agencies, a requester's only remedy if the oral request is denied is to make a written request, and then to proceed from scratch in accordance with the provisions governing written requests. 2 AAC 96.310(c). Upon receipt of an oral request, a public agency must inform the requester of the provisions of the section of the regulations addressing oral requests, and how they are treated. If the request involves a variety of records, a public agency may require that the request be made in writing. 2 AAC 96.310(b). In any event, the decision to grant or deny an oral request is in the sole discretion of the public agency. An oral request is deemed denied if not granted within five working days after the office of the public agency responsible for maintaining the requested records receives the request (excluding the request day and including the following five working days). 2 AAC 96.310(c). The rules governing oral requests for electronic services and products are the same except that an oral request is deemed denied if not granted within ten (10) working days. 2 AAC 96.410(c). Also, if a requester making an oral request for public records is unable to write a request due to a physical or mental disability, the public agency shall either assist the requester in preparing a written request, or treat the oral request as a written request. 2 AAC 96.310(d). The same procedure is followed with disabled persons making requests for electronic services and products. 2 AAC 96.410(d).

    The statutes and regulations do not specify any particular way that a requester must memorialize denial of a request for records, and presumably any means of showing the facts will suffice, from a formal letter of denial if there is one, to an e-mail or other informal correspondence or even an affidavit setting out the relevant facts.  Some of these may have advantages over others in terms of evidentiary value or weight. 2 AAC 96.310, applicable to requests for state records, provides that if a request includes a stamped, addressed postcard, the public agency shall promptly use it to acknowledge the date of receipt of the request.

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  • Arizona

    The Arizona Public Records Law no longer requires the submission of a written request for “non-commercial” matters.
    If a request is denied, the person should submit a written request for access to the documents to the head of the applicable agency.

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  • Arkansas

    As amended in 2001, the FOIA provides that a request may be made “in person, by telephone, by mail, by facsimile transmission, by electronic mail, or by other electronic means provided by the custodian.” Ark. Code Ann. § 25-19-105(a)(2)(B). If the request is made orally, in person, or by telephone, the requester is not required to provide a written version. Ark. Op. Att’y Gen. No. 2006-104. Agency regulations requiring written requests are contrary to the FOIA. Ark. Op. Att’y Gen. Nos. 2001-052, 96-354. Even if the request is made in person, however, a written request is advisable because it provides a record of the request in the event that litigation is necessary.

    Requests by telephone or in person must be made during “the regular business hours of the custodian.” Ark. Code Ann. § 25-19-105(a)(1). Despite the statutory language, a Supreme Court opinion suggests that the term “regular business hours” refers to the hours that the agency usually operates, not to the office hours of the custodian. See Hengel v. City of Pine Bluff, 307 Ark. 457, 821 S.W.2d 761 (1991). The Hengel decision, however, should be limited to its facts. There, the request involved records kept at a city jail, which was open around the clock. A different result should follow if the records at issue are maintained by the police (or any other agency that keeps long hours) in an office that is open only from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. As the Attorney General has observed, “the text of [Section 25-19-105(a)(1)] reflects only a legislative intention to make public records available at times when public employees are or should be present to locate and identify them.” Ark. Op. Att’y Gen. No. 2001-086.

    If an oral request is denied, there is no requirement that the requester memorialize the refusal or the requester’s subsequent steps, but such documentary evidence is advisable because it provides a record of the refusal and/or steps taken in the event that litigation is necessary.

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  • California

    Yes. A request must "reasonably describe an identifiable record" to be produced. Cal. Gov't Code § 6253(b). Such a request may be made orally. Los Angeles Times v. Alameda Corridor Transp. Authority, 88 Cal. App. 4th 1381, 107 Cal. Rptr. 2d 29 (2001)(CPRA does not require that requests for public records be in writing). However, if the request is in writing, then a written response is required. Cal. Gov't Code § 6255(b). Therefore, if a denial is anticipated or it is anticipated that the agency may drag its heels, the better practice is to make the request in writing, signed and dated by the person requesting the record, and to retain a copy. Otherwise, routine requests can be and should be made orally.

    If an oral request is denied, then a letter should be sent or faxed immediately memorializing the request (describing the records requested) and the denial. Also, request that the agency, pursuant to Section 6255(a), justify its denial by providing the express provision(s) of the CPRA upon which the agency is relying and by providing the names and titles of each person responsible for the denial. This way, there will be a record of the actions that may be an exhibit in support of any later initiated court proceedings under the CPRA.

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  • Colorado

    Requests may be made orally. Custodians have been permitted to require written requests as part of their rule-making authority under the statute. See Citizens Progressive Alliance v. Southwestern Water Conservation Dist., 97 P.3d 308, 312 (Colo. App. 2004);

    If records are available for inspection, then the person requesting them may also request copies, printouts, or photographs of the records. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-72-205(1).

    If the custodian does not have facilities for making copies of the records, the applicant is to be granted access to the records in order to make copies. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-72-205(2).

    Copies are to be made while the records are in the possession and under the supervision of the custodian.

    The custodian may establish a reasonable schedule of times for making copies. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-72-205(2).

    If the custodian denies access to any public record, the applicant may request a written statement of the grounds for the denial. The custodian's statement must cite the law or regulation under which access is denied. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-72-204(4).

    Further, the applicant may apply to the district court of the district wherein the record is found for an order directing the custodian of such record to show cause why the custodian should not permit the inspection of such record. However, at least three business days prior to filing an application with the court, the applicant must file a written notice with the custodian informing the custodian that the applicant intends to file such application. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-72-204(5).

    If an oral request is denied, the statute does not explicitly say that subsequent steps must be in writing. However, it appears to be the case.

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  • Connecticut

    An oral request for copies of public records need not be complied with; however, an oral request is sufficient to inspect public records. See Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-210(a). In Conn. Dep't of Pub. Safety v. FOIC, 1992 WL 31931 (Conn. Super. Feb. 5, 1992), aff'd, 29 Conn. App. 821, 618 A.2d 565 (1993), the Superior Court held that while a written request for copies is required under Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-212, no written request is necessary to inspect under Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-210(a). The court also ruled that copies must be provided if orally requested as part of the request to inspect under Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-210(a). In Planning and Zoning Commission v. FOIC, 2009 Conn. Super. LEXIS 3004 (2009) the court held that the Planning and Zoning Commission did not have to provide copies of certain public records during an evening meeting, even though the records were readily available, because the request was not made during "regular office or business hours" as stated in Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-210(a).  See also Hodge v. FOIC, 2008 Conn. Super. LEXIS 3162 (2008), for discussion of the absence of a need to complete a form to inspect public records.  There are no specific provisions or reported court decisions discussing the denial of oral requests.

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  • Delaware

    The Act does not specify the manner in which requests must be made. Del. Op. Att'y Gen., No. 91-I003 (Feb. 1, 1991) (the DFOIA does not address whether requests may be made in writing or orally).

    If the requester can inspect and copy records, it is not required that he or she make arrangements beforehand. However, it is good practice to make a request in advance if the request involves a number of documents.

    A requester should write a letter to memorialize the refusal of an oral request. Any subsequent steps taken by the requester need to be in writing.

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  • District of Columbia

    The D.C. Act does not expressly address oral requests as a general matter.  It appears, however, that oral requests are permissible, although a requester later may be asked to submit the request in writing. See 1 DCMR § § 402.1 & 402.2. In all events, it is prudent to submit requests in writing to ensure that there is a record of the request.  Section 2-536 specifically provides that the records described in that section are public information "and do not require a written request for information."

    The D.C. Act provides that a person has a right to inspect "at his or her discretion," and copy "any public record of a public body" unless otherwise exempted "in accordance with reasonable rules that shall be issued by a public body after notice and comment, concerning the time and place of access."  § 2-532(a).

    Although the D.C. Act does not expressly address the question of procedure after an oral request is denied, after receiving a formal denial, or a denial by operation of the fact that no determination is made within the statutory time period, a requester may appeal the decision to the Mayor. D.C. Code Ann. § 2-537(a).  Neither the statute nor the courts have addressed how the requester can memorialize the refusal, and whether or not subsequent steps need to be in writing.

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  • Florida

    A request for copies of records which is sufficient to identify records desired must be honored by the custodian, whether the request is in writing, over the telephone, or made in person, provided that the required fees are paid.  However, the custodian is not required to give out information from the records when requested by telephone, in writing, or in inspection and copying prescribed in section 119.01.  Cf. Op. Att’y Gen. Fla. 80-57 (1980) (request for records sufficient to identify the records may be oral or written).  Agency regulations may require requests to be in writing, if the requirement is reasonable.

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  • Georgia

    A written request is not required. O.C.G.A. § 50-18-71(b)(1)(B) (requests may be made “orally or in writing”). See, e.g., Howard v. Sumter Free Press Inc., 272 Ga. 521, 531 S.E.2d 698 (2000) (fact that some of newspaper's requests for sheriff's records were oral did not diminish their effect and requests were sufficiently specific to identify them as requests for information subject to the Act).

    However, a 2012 amendment to the Act now permits civil or criminal enforcement only if there has been a written request. § 50-18-71(b)(3). So, if an oral request has been made and denied, a follow-up written request must be made before a requester may ask a court to order that records be disclosed.

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  • Hawaii

    Yes. The UIPA does not require a written request. If the requester is not satisfied with the agency's response or lack thereof to an informal request, the requester may also make a formal request for access. Haw. Code R. § 2-71-11(c).

    Generally, records are available where they are maintained by the agency. Id. § 2-71-18. Copies are generally made by the agency's staff. Copies of the record may be transmitted by mail, telefax or other means provided that the transmission does not interfere with the agency's functions and that all fees are paid. Id.

    If oral requests are denied, the requester can appeal directly to the courts, Haw. Rev. Stat. § 92F-15, or to the OIP. Id. § 92F-15.5. Section 92F-42 enumerates the powers and duties of the OIP, including investigatory powers and authority to recommend agency disciplinary actions.

    In 2012, the OIP promulgated a comprehensive set rules for appealing an agency’s denial of access to its records. See generally Haw. Code R. ch. 2-73. In order to help explain its new administrative appeals process, the OIP created a comprehensive guide that summarizes, in question and answer format, the main points to know on filing an administrative appeal with the OIP. The “Guide to Appeals to the Office of Information Practices” can be found at: http://oip.hawaii.gov/laws-rules-opinions/rules/.

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  • Idaho

    Idaho Code § 74-102(4) provides that the person requesting a public record "may be required to make a written request and provide their name, mailing address and telephone number" (emphasis added). Routine requests are often handled based on oral requests; however, many agencies often insist upon written requests on their own forms.

    The examination of public records under the Act must be conducted during regular office or working hours unless the custodian of the records authorizes the examination of records in other than regular office or working hours. Idaho Code § 74-102(8). However, if the examination of the records occurs in other than regular office or working hours, the person designated to represent the custodian during such an examination is entitled to a reasonable compensation to be paid to them out of funds provided in advance by the person examining such records. Id. Additionally, the custodian of the records is entitled to maintain “such vigilance as is required to prevent alteration of any public record while it is being examined.” Idaho Code § 74-102(7).

    It is not specified what happens when an oral request is denied. However, a requester should proceed in the same manner as if a written request were denied if they intend to challenge the denial of access.

    Idaho Code § 74-103(3) provides that agency denials, even in part, must be done in writing. Idaho Code § 74-103(4) sets forth what the contents of a written agency denial must include. The notice of denial or partial denial shall state that the attorney for the public agency or independent public body corporate and politic has reviewed the request or shall state that the public agency or independent public body corporate and politic has had an opportunity to consult with an attorney regarding the request for examination or copying of a record and has chosen not to do so. The notice of denial or partial denial also shall indicate the statutory authority for the denial and indicate clearly the person's right to appeal the denial or partial denial and the time periods for doing so.

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  • Illinois

    The Act does not expressly prohibit oral requests, but 5 ILCS 140/3(c) states that requests “shall be made in writing and directed to the public body.”  While a “public body may honor oral requests for inspection or copying,” it is advisable to submit requests in writing.  5 ILCS 140/3(c) (emphasis added).  A copy of the request is necessary to submit a request to the PAC, and to file suit in State court.

    As a practical matter, informal telephone inquiry as to the status of a request can reduce the chance of an agency taking an adversarial position regarding the request.

    The Act provides that a requester may ask to inspect or copy.  The court in DesPain v. City of Collinsville, 382 Ill.App.3d 572, 888 N.E.2d 163, 320 Ill.Dec. 946 (5th Dist. 2008), held that the term “public record,” as used in the FOIA, referred to the original document, rather than a copy thereof.  Thus, a requester who asked to listen to recordings of city council meetings was entitled to listen to the original recordings rather than pay for copies to be made; the fact that the city had no facility for the public to listen to audiotapes was not a valid basis for denying a request to inspect a tape-recorded public record.

    The public body (and not a requester) should memorialize a denial in writing by sending a notice of denial.  Requests for records should be in wiring, because public bodies have no obligation to answer oral requests.  See 5 ILCS 140/3(c).

    For purposes of appeal, it is best to reduce all stages of a FOIA request to writing.

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  • Indiana

    Yes. The request for records may be made orally or in writing. See Ind. Code § 5-14-3-9(b), (d). But see Ind. Code § 5-14-3-3(a) (agency has discretion to require request to be in writing or in a form provided by the agency). Note that if the request is made orally, the agency may deny the request orally. Ind. Code § 5-14-3-9(c).

    The requester may renew the oral request in writing. See Ind. Code § 5-14-3-9(d). If a written request is denied, the denial must be in writing and include a statement of the specific exemption authorizing the withholding of all or part of the public record and the name and the title or position of the person responsible for the denial. Ind. Code § 5-14-3-9(d). The statute does not address later steps, short of an advisory opinion by the public access counselor or litigation.

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  • Iowa

    A request may be submitted in writing, by telephone, or by electronic means. While physical presence is not required to make a request, the lawful custodian may fulfill a request made in person. Iowa Code § 22.3(1).

    "The rights of persons under this chapter may be exercised at any time during the customary office hours of the lawful custodian of the records. However, if the lawful custodian does not have customary office hours of at least thirty hours per week, such right may be exercised at any time from nine o'clock a.m. to noon and from one o'clock p.m. to four o'clock p.m. Monday through Friday, excluding legal holidays, unless the person exercising such right and the lawful custodian agree on a different time." Iowa Code § 22.4.

    Generally, county records have some discretion in issuing certified copies, but may not abuse that discretion and must act in good faith in refusing to issue such copies to an applicant. Op. Att’y Gen. No. 98-8-1, 1998 WL 698404 (Aug. 12, 1998). A lawful custodian may not refuse to permit the use of public records for purely commercial purposes. Op. Att’y Gen.No. 68-4-19, 1968 WL 172549 (Apr. 8, 1968). “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 of the requirements of [Chapter 22].” Iowa Code § 22.10(1); see Diercks v. Malin, 894 N.W.2d 12, 16–17 (Iowa Ct. App. 2016) (bringing suit for injunctive relief when the City did not produce all requested documents and failed to make a claim of confidentiality, privilege, or exemption for the undisclosed materials).

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  • Kansas

    An agency may require a written request for inspection, but shall not otherwise require a request to be made in any particular form. K.S.A. 45-220(b).  Once a record requestor has submitted a written request that is understood by the record custodian, an agency form is not required.  Kan. Att’y Gen. Op. 2009-18.

    A public agency may require a person desiring to inspect public records to notify the agency not more than 24 hours prior to the hours established for inspection and obtaining copies. Such notice shall not be required to be in writing. K.S.A. 45-220(d).

    If a request is denied, the custodian, upon request, shall provide a written statement of the grounds for denial. K.S.A. 45-218(d).

    The KORA does not require additional written steps; however, proof of requests may be necessary in enforcement actions under K.S.A. 45-222.

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  • Kentucky

    The Open Records Act does not prohibit oral requests, but the agency's official custodian "may require written application, signed by the applicant and with his name printed legibly on the application, describing the records to be inspected." Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.872(2). State agencies generally require a written request. See 200 KAR 1:020 § 3 (permitting person "on written application" to inspect records).

    Regardless of whether oral requests are permissible, a request should be in writing in order to quickly enforce the Act. See Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.880.

    The requester may choose to make an onsite inspection and no unreasonable restrictions may be imposed. 97-ORD-12. Nonetheless the Attorney General has held that "when there is a mechanism in place for providing public access to public records, without resorting to on site use of agency's computers, the agency discharges its duty to access under Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.872 by utilizing the alternative mechanism, and the requester's right of inspection is not abridged." 00-ORD-8.

    The public agency is required to provide in writing its decision whether to provide or deny inspection of the public record. Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.880(1).  The requesting party is required to attach the public agency’s decision to any appeal to the Attorney General regarding the decision. See Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.880(2).

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  • Louisiana

    Yes. Request need only be specific enough to allow custodian to identify and locate records. Op. Att'y Gen. 89-602A.

    The requester need not make arrangements beforehand to inspect and copy records. "If the public record applied for is immediately available, because of its not being in active use at the time of the application, the public record shall be immediately presented to the authorized person applying for it." La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 44:33(B)(l). See also Op. Att'y Gen. 00-241 (copies made of public records need not be returned).

    The custodian of the record shall notify in writing the person making the request of the custodian's determination and the reasons for it. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 44:32(D).

    There are no subsequent steps other than legal action.

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  • Maine

    The law covers oral and written requests. It is a best practice to make a written request, unless the request is simple and a response is expected quickly and without hassle.

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  • Maryland

    In most circumstances, the Act requires an applicant to submit a written application. § 4-202(a). However, if a request is made for a type of record that has been designated by the official custodian to be made immediately available on request, there is no need for a formal written request. § 4-202(b); see also §4-201(c); see also PIA Manual, at 4-1. As a practical matter, some records may be obtained by oral request, and many agencies permit oral requests. See, e.g., COMAR 28.01.04.06A(1) (Office of Administrative Hearings); COMAR 26.01.04.04 (Department of Environment); and COMAR 29.01.02.04A(1) (Maryland State Police). The Attorney General's Office suggests that agency personnel should not demand a written request when there is no question that the public has a right to inspect the particular record. PIA Manual, at 4-1. The "written application" requirement does not apply to the Legislative Auditor's conduct of an audit. See 76 Op. Att'y Gen. 287 (1991).

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  • Massachusetts

    The statute is silent on oral requests but a regulation permits an in-person oral request. 950 CMR 32.05(3) (“A custodian shall not require written requests merely to delay production.”). While such a request will suffice for purposes of invoking the Public Records Law’s provisions, nevertheless sound practice is to put all requests in writing unless they are granted and fulfilled on the spot. Request should always be put in writing if a dispute or appeal is expected, because a written request is a mandatory prerequisite to administrative or court appeal. See G.L. c. 66, § 10(b); 950 CMR 32.08(2). According to the Secretary of State’s Office, an oral request may not be made by telephone. Mass. Pub. Recs. Guide (Sec’y of State, rev. March 2009), at p. 2.

    There is no statutory requirement of advance arrangements but they may often be desirable as a practical matter. If a requester does not request a copy of the materials, but rather wants only to review them in the office of the record custodian, the request should be honored “and only minor fees associated with securing the record should be charged.” Guide to Mass. Pub. Recs. Law (Sec’y of State, rev. March 2009), at 3.

    Because an oral request cannot be the basis of an administrative or court appeal, oral requester would have to make a second, written, request – and await a second, written, denial – before appealing. Presumably the period for appealing would run from denial of the written request, but the ambiguity of the law on this point is another reason to put in writing all requests that are not granted and fulfilled on the spot.

    Any subsequent steps must be in writing.

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  • Michigan

    "A person desiring to inspect or receive a copy of a public record shall make a written request for the public record to the FOIA coordinator of a public body." Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.235(1) (emphasis added). See also Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.233(1) ("Upon providing a public body's FOIA coordinator with a written request . . . ") This is a change effective in 1997 from previous law, which permitted a request to be made orally. Further, a written request made by fax, electronic mail, or other electronic transmission "is not received by [the FOIA coordinator] until 1 business day after the electronic transmission is made."

    Public bodies may make "reasonable rules necessary to protect public records and to prevent excessive and unreasonable interference with the discharge of [agency] functions." Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.233(2). Thus, while public bodies must provide "reasonable opportunity" for inspection of records, it would be wise for the requester to make arrangements to see records beforehand.

    Further, in another 1996 revision, the FOIA instructs a public body to "protect public records from loss, unauthorized alteration, mutilation, or destruction." Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.233(3).  The FOIA originally provided that upon an oral or written request which describes the public record sufficiently to enable the public body to find the public record, a person has the right to inspect, copy or receive copies of a public record of a public body, except as otherwise provided by the act.  Hoffman v. Bay City School District, 137 Mich. App. 333, 357 N.W. 2d 686 (1984).  The 1996 amendment deleted “oral.”

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  • Minnesota

    There is no requirement that requests for access to data be in writing. See Minn. Stat. § 13.03, subd. 3.

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  • Mississippi

    No.  To formally initiate a request, it must be in writing.  File written request and public body must deny “in writing” with a “statement of the specific reasons for the denial.”  §25-61-5(2).  Public body must keep denials for three years.  Id.

    Inspection of records, as opposed to copying, is allowed on "reasonable" terms. § 25-61-5(1). The duty to allow inspection may not require the public body itself to search. Op. Att'y Gen. Oct. 5, 1994 to Jo-Ann Corvis.

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  • Montana

    There is no requirement that a records request be made on writing, so an oral request will suffice. Mont. Code. Ann. § 2-6-1009(1) requires the public entity to provide a written explanation for denial of access to records. The written denial permits the requestor to file an action in district court to compel production of the records. Mont. Code. Ann. § 2-6-1009(2).
    In the event the public entity agrees to disclose the documents, arrangements for copying the documents together with payment of any gathering and copying fees are concluded between the requestor and the agency.

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  • Nebraska

    Nothing in the law prohibits oral requests. For a variety of practical reasons, however, written requests are preferable.

    Inspection of documents must occur during ordinary business hours. If someone copies documents using their own photocopying equipment, the copies must be made on the premises of the custodian or at a location mutually agreed to by the custodian and the person requesting the copies. Neb. Rev. Stat. §84-712(2).

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  • Nevada

    Yes. NRS 239.0107(1) permits written or oral requests, either one of which is sufficient to allow the requester to inspect or copy the public book or record. While written requests are preferred, an oral request is valid although the governmental entity may ask the requester to confirm the request in writing in order to eliminate any confusion regarding the request.

    If the request is denied, the governmental entity must provide, in writing, notice of this fact to the requester along with sufficient information to explain the basis for the denial. NRS 239.0107.

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  • New Hampshire

    There is no requirement that a request be in writing, but it is advisable to do so to minimize the potential for misunderstanding and delay. See Brent v. Paquette, 132 N.H. 415 (1989) (no evidence plaintiff made request other than bare assertion he telephoned).

    Regardless of whether the request is oral or in writing, the public body may require an appointment to inspect records. Brent v. Paquette, 132 N.H. 415 (1989).  Moreover, under RSA 91-A:4,IV, the public agency or public body is required to disclose the records or respond to the requester in writing

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  • New Jersey

    N.J.S.A. 47:1A-5(g) requires a request for access to a government record to be in writing.

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  • New Mexico

    The failure to respond to an oral request shall not subject the custodian to any penalty.  NMSA § 14-2-8(A).  Informally, many public bodies honor oral requests and may do so faster than a written request.  Public bodies will often produce documents for inspection and copying without a written request, however, officially a request is required to be in writing.  NMSA 1978 § 14-2-8(A).  No person requesting records shall be required to state the reason for inspecting the records.  NMSA § 14-2-8(C). Government custodians are obligated to respond in writing to a written request.  NMSA 1978 § 14-2-8(D).

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  • New York

    No. FOIL only addresses written requests. N.Y. Pub. Off. Law § 89(3).

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  • North Carolina

    With two exceptions, the Public records law does not require a request to be in writing. A public agency may require a request for copies of computer databases to be made in writing, and a public agency providing copies of a geographical information system may require an agreement in writing that the requester will not use the record for commercial purposes. G.S. §§ 132-6.2(c) and 132-10.

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  • North Dakota

    Yes. The North Dakota open records law provides, “[e]xcept as otherwise specifically provided by law, all records of a public entity are public records, open and accessible for inspection during reasonable office hours.” N.D.C.C. § 44-04-18(1) (emphasis added). A request need not be made in person or in writing, and the copy must be mailed upon request. N.D.C.C. § 44-04-18(2).

    There is no need for advanced arrangements to inspect and copy under North Dakota law. Of course, calling in advance may facilitate the process of inspecting records.

    Any interested person may request an attorney general’s opinion to review an alleged violation of the open records law. N.D.C.C. § 44-04-21.1(1). The request must be made within thirty days of the alleged violation. N.D.C.C. § 44-04-21.1(1). The attorney general may request and obtain information claimed to be exempt or confidential for the purpose of determining whether the information is exempt or confidential. N.D.C.C. § 44-04-21.1(1). The attorney general must then issue to the public entity involved an opinion on the alleged violation, unless the request is withdrawn by the person requesting the opinion or a civil action has been filed involving the possible violation. N.D.C.C. § 44-04-21.1(1).

    In any opinion issued, the attorney general must base the opinion on the facts given by the public entity. N.D.C.C. § 44-04-21.1(1).

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  • Ohio

    Yes. The statute contains no authority for public offices to demand written requests as a condition for public access. See State ex rel. Zauderer v. Joseph, 62 Ohio App. 3d 752, 577 N.E.2d 444 (1989). However, statutory damages for noncompliance are only available to requests sent by certified mail or hand-delivered requests. Ohio Rev. Code § 149.43(C)(2).

    Whether a requester must make arrangements in advance to inspect or copy records depends on the public office. Some public offices are accustomed to public access to records as a matter of daily routine, such as a county recorder's office. Many public offices are not set up for routine public access to records, and may need advance notice that the requester is coming. Other than to require public offices to allow "prompt" inspection, and to provide copies within a "reasonable period of time," the statute does not address whether a requester must provide advance notice of an inspection or copying.

    A requester can memorialize a refusal of an oral request in any manner, including sending a letter to the public office confirming the oral request and the denial. The statute does not impose any limitations.

    The statute does not require anything to be in writing. As a practical matter, putting a request in writing, and putting follow-up requests in writing, helps ensure that the public office will not have a feigned or real misunderstanding of which records are being requested.

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  • Oklahoma

    The law defines neither written nor oral requests. The Oklahoma Court of Appeals states the Open Records Act contains no provision for dictating the manner in which to make a request for inspection of a record. Intn’l. Union of Police Associations v. City of Lawton, 2009 OK CIV APP 85 ¶ 14. The public body is compelled to provide prompt reasonable access to the records upon request. 25 O.S. § 24A.5.5. See In the Matter of the Petition of University Hospitals Authority, 1997 OK 162, 953 P.2d 314 (Contract made available to the public two days before consideration in an open meeting was timely when the record was provided as soon as it came into existence).

    The requester should make the same request in writing.

    The written request should direct the public body to state the specific statute it is relying upon to deny access to the record.

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  • Oregon

    The Public Records Law is silent on this issue. Of course, a written request will provide better documentation on appeal.

    The person designated as the custodian of the public records for a public body is obligated to furnish a reasonable opportunity for inspection and examination during usual business hours. That person may make reasonable rules and regulations necessary for the protection of the records and to prevent interference with the regular discharge of official duties. ORS 192.318 (formerly ORS 192.430).

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  • Pennsylvania

    Agencies may, but are not required to, fulfill “verbal” (presumably meaning “oral”) and anonymous requests. 65 Pa. Con. Stat. § 67.702. If the requester wants to pursue “the relief and remedies” provided by the Law, e.g., receive the required form of agency response and take an appeal from any denial of access, “the request for access to records must be a written request.” Id. While agencies may have the statutory discretion to accept oral requests, it appears that Commonwealth agencies under the control of the governor have been instructed to refuse oral requests. See Management Directive No. 205.36 (November 27, 2002).

    Round the clock access is not required: “Public records, legislative records or financial records shall be available for access during the regular business hours of an agency.” 65 Pa. Con. Stat. § 67.701(a).

    “If a written request for a record is denied or deemed denied, an administrative appeal may be filed with the Office of Open Records, judicial, legislative, or other appropriate appeals officer designated under section 503(d) [of the Law] within 15 business days of the mailing date of the agency’s response or within 15 business days of a deemed denial.”

    Id. § 67.1101(a)(1).

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  • Rhode Island

    While the statute does not specifically address oral requests, each public body shall establish procedures regarding access to public records. R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-3(d).  A public body can establish a procedure that does not permit oral requests, by requiring that all requests be in writing or that all requests be in writing and using a specific request form.  If a public body has not established any procedures pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-3(d), it must accept oral requests and treat them the same as written requests.  See Op. Att’y Gen. PR 09-29 (Nov. 19, 2009), 2009 WL 6329137.  However, no public body can require written requests for public information available pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-35-2 or for other documents prepared for or readily available to the public. R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-3(d).

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  • South Carolina

    Three specific public records are to be made available for inspection and copying when the requester appears at the place where the records are maintained and makes an oral request: minutes of meetings, police reports, jail logs, and all documents produced by a public body or its agent that were distributed to or reviewed by a member of the public body during a public meeting for the preceding six-month period. S.C. Code Ann. § 30-4-30(d). For records other than those for which an in-person request will trigger their production, the act specifies that requests are to be in writing. Some public bodies will respond to written requests, but if you anticipate that you might have to resort to litigation to receive the records, make your request in writing so that there is a record of the request and the time for the public body's response begins.

    Where a person requesting access to minutes of meetings, crime reports and jail logs appears in person to request access, there is no need for a written request. S.C. Code Ann. § 30-4-30(d). Oral requests are often honored by public bodies, but in many situations the body will require a written request to satisfy a deep-seated bureaucratic need for paper.

    A denial of access for jail logs, police reports and minutes of meetings would be a violation of the act, and the remedies available, including injunctive relief, would have application. If you have made an oral request for other records, the oral request may not be sufficient to trigger the timetable for a response. A better practice if you anticipate a contest over the records is to make a written request.

    There is no statutory procedure, but a letter to the person denying access confirming the denial would provide a starting point for litigation.

    There are no subsequent steps with respect to oral requests for those categories of records that are to be made available in response to oral requests.

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  • South Dakota

    The law covers oral requests. SDCL §1-27-35.   If an oral request granted, then arrangements made with custodian of the record. SDCL §1-27-35.   If an oral request is denied, written request should be sent to the public record officer of the agency. SDCL §1-27-37.  There is no specific procedure established for denial of an informal request by a custodian. It should be noted, however, that if a denial in whole or in part is made in writing, it is to be kept on file with the agency. SDCL §§1-27-35 and 1-27-1.4.   Subsequent steps should be taken in written form. SDCL §1-27-37.

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  • Tennessee

    The Act does not require requests to inspect records to be in writing. Wells v. Wharton, 2005 WL3309651 (Tenn. Ct. App. Dec. 7, 2005).  Requests can be oral, during business hours. A request made by either email or phone is sufficient. The custodian may not require that the request be delivered in person or by U.S. Mail. Jakes v. Sumner City Bd. of Educ. 2017 Tenn. App LEXIS 515 (July 28, 2017); T.C.A. § 10-7-503(a)(7)(A)

    There is no specified procedure to follow if an oral request is denied, however, a written request would be beneficial to further the request or establish facts for judicial review.

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  • Texas

    If a requestor wants to timely receive requested records under the Act and start the applicable deadlines, she should memorialize her request in writing. Although the Act does not explicitly prohibit oral requests, a request must be in writing before Section 552.301 applies. Tex. Att'y Gen. ORD-304 (1982) (“[T]he statute [Open Records Act] does not require any governmental body to produce information in the absence of a written request.”); Tex. Att'y Gen. No. OR 2000-1597 (2000) (stating that a written request triggers the deadlines of the Act).

    Under Section 552.230 of the Act a governmental body may promulgate reasonable rules, which are consistent with the Act, of procedure under which public information may be inspected and copied efficiently, safely, and without delay. Examination of the information must be completed within 10 business days after the custodian of the information makes it available. Tex. Gov't Code § 552.225(a). The governmental official “must provide access to public records on a daily basis for a minimum of 10 days per request.” Felix v. Thaler, 923 S.W.2d 650, 653 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 1995, no writ.); Op. Tex. Att'y Gen. No. 94-010 (1994). When a governmental body cannot produce requested information within ten business days of receipt of the request for the information, the public information officer must certify that fact in writing to the requestor and set a date and hour within a reasonable time when the information will be available. Tex. Att'y Gen. No. ORD-664 (2000).

    The officer for public information shall extend the initial examination period by an additional 10 business days if, within the initial period, the requestor files a written request for additional time. The officer for public information shall extend an additional examination period by another 10 business days if, within the additional period, the requestor files a written request for more additional time. Tex. Gov't Code § 552.225(b). The time during which a person may examine information may be interrupted by the officer for public information if the information is needed for use by the governmental body. The period of interruption is not considered to be a part of the time during which the person may examine the information. Tex. Gov't Code § 552.225(c).

    Although the Act does not prohibit oral requests, a request must be in writing before Section 552.301 applies. Tex. Att'y Gen. ORD-304 (1982) (“[T]he statute [Open Records Act] does not require any governmental body to produce information in the absence of a written request.”); Tex. Att'y Gen. No. OR 2000-1597 (2000) (stating that a written request triggers the deadlines of the Act).

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  • Utah

    A person wanting access to a record must provide the government entity with a written request. See Utah Code § 63G-2-204(1).

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  • Vermont

    There is no requirement that the request be in writing, unless the request is subject to staff time charges. 1 V.S.A. § 316(c). As a practical matter, of course, a written request (perhaps as a follow-up where an initial oral request has not been satisfied) will assist later proceedings to compel disclosure. The statute seems to presume that the requester will have started his or her search with the correct agency or records custodian; there is no statutory requirement or procedure for informing the requester that she or he simply has the wrong office or agency. In Vermont, the practice in most instances is that public employees do not read the statute so literally, and will ordinarily be helpful to some extent about the reason(s) why a request is not being honored.

    There also is no statutory requirement that administrative appeals be in writing, but effectively there is no other way to utilize the process. However, the initial custodian’s response — either that a record is exempt, or that it “does not exist under the name given to [him] . . . or by any other name known to the custodian,” see 1 V.S.A. § 318(b)(2), (4) — must be in writing if it is anything other than production of the requested documents. An outright denial must also set forth the name(s) and title(s) of each person involved in the denial. 1 V.S.A. § 318(b)(2)(C).

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  • Virginia

    Yes.  The Act does not mandate that a request be written. It is advisable, however, that the request be written if the requester anticipates a need to enforce his or her rights under the Act.

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  • Washington

    Yes, and on routine or simple matters, many agencies will make records available without a written request. Usually, however, a request should be made in writing to establish a clear record of the request.

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  • West Virginia

    The FOIA requires a denial of a request for access to records to be in writing. It is possible that an oral request might be honored by a public body, but it is highly recommended that the request be made in writing because it is important to trigger the beginning of the agency's statutory response time as well as establish and document the specific parameters of the request should it be denied and judicial review be sought. Thus, a written request should be the rule; oral requests should be avoided unless time constraints make reduction of the request to writing infeasible.

    The "custodian" of public records is required, upon FOIA request, to "furnish proper and reasonable opportunities for inspection and examination of the records in his office and reasonable facilities for making memoranda or abstracts therefrom, during the usual business hours, to all persons having occasion to make examination of them." W. Va. Code § 29B-1-3(3). The statute does permit public bodies to "make reasonable rules and regulations necessary for the protection of the records and to prevent interference with the regular discharge of his duties . . . but in no circumstances may these limitations be used so as to prevent a person from access to the records." Richardson v. Town of Kimball, 176 W. Va. 24, 340 S.E.2d 582 (W. Va. 1986). An internet search should reveal whether a particular agency has adopted regulations governing inspection procedures. See also http://apps.sos.wv.gov/adlaw/csr/

    Although the FOIA has no requirement that advance arrangements be made for inspection or copying of records, an agency might require this by regulation. Moreover, if locating the records will be at all time consuming, advance arrangements obviously would be desirable and is recommended.

    If an oral request is made and denied, the agency should be asked to provide the denial in writing, as required by the Freedom of Information Act. If this request is refused, or if the denial does not specifically and correctly describe what records were requested, a written record of what was requested should be made together with the reasons given for the denial. If a clerk, or someone other than the actual "custodian" of the records made the denial, it is essential that a formal written request be directed to the custodian.

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  • Wisconsin

    Prior arrangements are required only if the custodian does not maintain regular office hours at the location where the records are kept. Wis. Stat. § 19.34(2)(b).
    Custodians must respond to oral requests. Wis. Stat. § 19.35(1)(h). Custodians may orally deny an oral request, unless the requester demands a written statement of reasons within 5 business days of the oral denial. Wis. Stat. § 19.35(4)(b).
    No action to enforce access may be commenced unless the request was made in writing. Wis. Stat. § 19.35(1)(h).

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  • Wyoming

    Yes.

    All public records are open for inspection at "reasonable times." The requester need not make arrangements beforehand. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-202(a) (1977, Rev. 1982).

    The party denied access may request a written statement of the grounds for the denial. The statement must cite the relevant law or regulation under which access is denied. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-203(e) (1977, Rev. 1991).

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