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2. Priority

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  • Alaska

    There is no statutory provision for priority for records requests, although the courts have been solicitous of public record requests by news organizations when suits have been filed in the past.

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  • Arizona

    (This section is blank. See the point above.)

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  • Arkansas

    The FOIA requires the court to “fix and assess a day the petition is to be heard” within seven days of its filing. Ark. Code Ann. § 25-19-107(b). This provision is probably unenforceable in light of a court’s inherent authority to control its docket. See McConnell v. State, 227 Ark. 988, 302 S.W.2d 805 (1957). In Orsini v. State, 340 Ark. 665, 13 S.W.3d 167 (2000), the Supreme Court left open the question whether Section 25-19-107(b) “requires that a hearing be set within seven days of the FOIA request or actually conducted within that time frame . . . because the circuit court did neither.” Nevertheless, the Court emphasized that “this section of the FOIA sets a policy in favor of expeditious hearings on all FOIA requests.”

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  • California

    Section 6258 provides, in pertinent part, that the hearing in these proceedings "shall be set by the judge of the court with the object of securing a decision as to these matters at the earliest possible time." Cal. Gov't Code § 6258.

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  • Colorado

    Applications are to be heard "at the earliest practical time."

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  • Connecticut

    An appeal of an FOIC decision is privileged in respect to its assignment for trial over most other civil actions; the exceptions are writs of habeas corpus and actions by or on behalf of the state. Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-206(d).

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  • Delaware

    A court does not give records questions priority on the docket, except when the parties can demonstrate urgency meriting expedited litigation.

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  • District of Columbia

    There is no statutory priority given to FOIA suits.

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  • Georgia

    The Act does not specifically require courts to give priority to litigation to enforce the Act but expedited treatment may be sought and is often afforded depending upon the facts of the particular case.  See generally O.C.G.A. § 50-18-70(a) (The General Assembly … finds and declares that there is a strong presumption that public records should be made available for public inspection without delay.”).

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  • Hawaii

    Yes. Section 92F-15(f) provides that such actions are to be expedited except as to cases in the circuit court which the court considers of greater importance.

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  • Idaho

    To begin proceedings, a petition must be filed (with the district court) protesting the denial of access within 180 days from the date of mailing of the notice of denial by the public agency. Idaho Code § 74-115(1). After a petition is filed, the court sets a time for the public agency to file a response and for a hearing at the "earliest possible time," and in no event later than 28 calendar days after the protest petition is filed. Idaho Code § 74-115(1). At that time, the court has the discretion to examine the documents at issue in camera and shall consider both written and oral presentations from the person filing the petition and the agency. Idaho Code § 74-116(1). If the court finds the records are not exempt from public disclosure, the agency will be required to make them available. If the court finds in favor of the public agency, the records will remain with the agency without being disclosed. Idaho Code § 74-116(2).

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  • Illinois

    Except as to causes the court considers to be of greater importance, proceedings arising under this Act must take precedence over all other causes and be assigned for hearing and trial at the earliest practicable date and expedited in every way. See 5 ILCS 140/11(h).

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  • Indiana

    The statute provides that any hearing in an action under the Access to Public Records Act shall be expedited. Ind. Code § 5-14-3-9(l). Also, an unsuccessful requester would be wise to seek a temporary restraining order or an injunction, as those proceedings are given docket priority.

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  • Iowa

    Records actions are not afforded docket priority.

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  • Kansas

    Suits under the act are assigned for hearing at the "earliest practicable date." K.S.A. 45-222(e).

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  • Kentucky

    Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.882(4) provides that, “[e]xcept as otherwise provided by law or rule of court, proceedings arising under this section take precedence on the docket over all other causes and shall be assigned for hearing and trial at the earliest practicable date.”

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  • Louisiana

    Public records suits "shall be tried by preference and in a summary manner. Any appellate courts to which the suit is brought shall place it on its preferential docket and shall hear it without delay, rendering a decision as soon as practicable." La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 44:35(C).

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  • Maine

    An appeal under the Act is entitled to statutory priority.  “Appeals may be advanced on the docket and receive priority over other cases when the court determines that the interests of justice so require.”  1 M.R.S.A § 409(1).  In practice, FOAA cases usually are given expedited treatment, but a motion should be filed requesting same and the clerk’s office should be notified of the request for expedited treatment.

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  • Maryland

    Except for cases that the court considers of greater importance, the court will give records questions precedent on the docket, hear records questions at the earliest practicable date, and expedite any decision concerning records questions in every way. § 4-362(c).

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  • Massachusetts

    The statute does not confer priority to public records challenges, although a court has discretion to allow a motion to expedite the case. A more effective strategy, in appropriate cases, may be to move for preliminary injunction at the start of the case.  One Superior Court judge has noted that “a motion for a preliminary injunction made in a lawsuit filed pursuant to G.L.c. 66 § 10 is precisely how an issue under the Public Records Statute is best addressed.”  Patriot Ledger v. Masterson, 09-400, 2009 WL 928796 (Mass. Super. Apr. 2, 2009) (Sanders, J.). There are strong arguments to be made that there is a public interest in affording injunctive relief where appropriate.  “[T]he Public Records Statute itself requires that records not exempt from disclosure be produced without unreasonable delay and that, where the custodian of public records fails to comply with a request, the Superior Court has jurisdiction to order compliance. G.L.c. 66 § 10(a) and (b); see also 950 C.M.R. 32.05(2).”  Id. The issue before the court is frequently a pure question of law.  And, often, the argument that can be made that there is “a strong public interest in prompt disclosure of this information which outweighs any conceivable harm to the defendants.”  Id. (emphasis added) (noting that “[m]uch of the process by which disability pensions are awarded is shrouded in secrecy,” even though  taxpayer money is involved and the awards have a significant impact on “the budgets of our cities and towns, which are already struggling to fund important public services in these difficult economic times”).  Nevertheless, because injunctive relief ordering records release would effectively end the case, courts may be resistant to take that path.  Indeed, in a thoughtful and nuanced decision, the same judge who decided Masterson declined to provide injunctive relief in another case where she was not convinced that the issues before the court were “purely legal.”  Globe Newspaper Co. v. Executive Office of Admin. and Finance, No. 011-1184 (Suffolk Super. Ct. April 25, 2011) (Sanders, J.).

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  • Michigan

    Actions brought under the FOIA and appeals from FOIA decisions are to be "assigned for hearing and trial or for argument at the earliest practicable date and expedited in every way." Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.240(5).

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  • Montana

    Most courts will respond immediately to open records question and will usually entertain ex parte applications from the requester.

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  • Nebraska

    Neb. Rev. Stat. §84-712.03 provides in part: "Proceedings arising under this section, except as to the cases the court considers of greater importance, shall take precedence on the docket over all other cases and shall be assigned for hearing, trial, or argument at the earliest practicable date and expedited in every way."

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  • Nevada

    The NPRA states: “The court shall give this matter priority over other civil matters to which priority is not given by other statutes." NRS 239.011(2).

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  • New Hampshire

    The Superior Court is directed to "give proceedings under this chapter high priority on the court calendar." RSA 91-A:7.

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  • New Jersey

    Summary proceedings in the Law Division of Superior Court are conducted in a summary manner.

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  • New Mexico

    No special priority on the docket.

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  • North Carolina

    Actions brought under the Public records law “shall be set down for immediate hearing,” and subsequent proceedings are accorded priority. G.S. § 132-9(9).

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  • North Dakota

    The remedies provided are not available if a violation has been corrected before a civil action is filed and no person has been prejudiced or harmed by the delay. N.D.C.C. § 44-04-21.2(3). An interested person or entity may not file a civil action seeking attorney’s fees or damages, or both, until at least three working days after providing notice of the alleged violation to the chief administrative officer for the public entity. N.D.C.C. § 44-04-21.2(3). This provision does not apply if the attorney general has found under N.D.C.C. § 44-04-21.1, on a prior occasion, that the public entity has violated the open records or meetings laws. N.D.C.C. § 44-04-21.2(3).

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  • Oklahoma

    There are no provisions for expediting an access to records case.

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  • Oregon

    Under ORS 192.431(2) (formerly ORS 192.490(2)), proceedings involving the denial of Public Records disclosure requests shall take “precedence on the docket over all other causes” except those “the court considers of greater importance,” and shall be heard and tried at the earliest practical date and expedited in every way.

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  • Rhode Island

    Actions brought in the Superior Court under the APRA may be advanced on the trial calendar upon motion made in accordance with the rules of civil procedure. R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-9(c).

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  • South Carolina

    Changes to SC FOIA in 2017, now provide that upon filing the lawsuit, the court must schedule an initial hearing within ten days of service of the lawsuit on all parties. If the court is unable to make a final ruling regarding the alleged violations, the court must establish a scheduling order to conclude the action within 6 months of filing. The 6-month deadline may be extended by the court “upon a showing of good cause.”  S.C. Code Ann. § 30-4-100(A).

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  • Tennessee

    The Act provides for expedited hearings. T.C.A. § 10-7-505(b).

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  • Texas

    Generally, a plaintiff in a district court mandamus action may request a show cause order requiring the governmental body to respond to the mandamus petition within 10 days. Otherwise, there is no special, expedited docket treatment of public record questions. The Act does not address any such expedited treatment.

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  • Utah

    The court shall decide the appeal at the “earliest practical opportunity.” Utah Code § 63G-2-404(6)(a)(ii).

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  • Vermont

    The court is directed to expedite Public Records Act cases and give them priority “except as to cases the court considers of greater importance.” 1 V.S.A. § 319(b).

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  • Virginia

    Suits to enforce the provisions of the Act must be heard within seven days of filing, if the party against whom the petition is brought has received a copy of the petition at least three working days prior to filing. However, if the court is not in its regular term, the hearing must be given precedence over all other cases which are not otherwise given precedence. Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-3713.C.

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  • Washington

    Such matters are not given any priority on the court calendar by statute.  As a practical matter, most courts will hear public records matters on short notice, provided no jury is requested.

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  • West Virginia

    The FOIA confers priority on cases involving the denial of access to public records: "Except as to causes the court considers of greater importance, proceedings arising under [the FOIA] shall be assigned for hearing and trial at the earliest practicable date." W. Va. Code §  29B-1-5(3). Such a "priority" however, is left to the discretion of the trial court, which often may consider other matters to be of greater importance.

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  • Wyoming

    The Wyoming Rules of Civil Procedure are silent on the issue, though the Act calls for a “show cause” hearing, which does not require an answer by the custodian and may be set at the discretion of the court.

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