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2. Purpose of request


  • Alabama

    The Alabama Public Records Law contains no provision with respect to whether a requester's purpose can affect the right of access to public writings. In Holcombe v. State ex rel. Chandler, 240 Ala. 590, 200 So. 739 (1941), the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that although the public has the right of a reasonable and free examination of public records, this privilege does not exist where "the purpose is purely speculative or from idle curiosity." Holcombe, 200 So. at 746. The Holcombe court expressly recognized the legitimacy of media interest in public records, however, as follows:

    [P]ersons engaged in the publication of newspapers have such an interest in the public records of public officers as to entitle them to a due or reasonable inspection of such public records. The function of the press in gathering information for the public to enable public affairs to be intelligently discussed is of great importance.

    240 Ala. at 597, 200 So. at 746.

    Alabama courts have also recognized the legitimacy of commercial purpose in a request for access to public records. The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals has noted that section 36-12-40 "makes no distinction between disclosure for profit or otherwise," and refused to create a distinction where the statute had not. Walsh v. Barnes, 541 So. 2d 33, 35 (Ala. Civ. App. 1989) ("There is no exception under § 36-12-40 disallowing one to inspect or copy public writings simply because one desires to use such for personal gain[,]" thus, an insurance agent was entitled to a copy of a retirement system's actuarial tables).

    A 1991 decision of the Supreme Court of Alabama affirmed the right of the custodian of public records in the City of Hoover to require the requester to complete a written request form that includes (1) specification of the documents sought and (2) the reasons for the document request. Blankenship v. City of Hoover, 590 So. 2d 245 (Ala. 1991). As a concurring/dissenting justice pointed out in a separate opinion in that case, the mere fact of asking for a reason for the request could have a chilling effect on the right of access to public records. 590 So. 2d at 251-52 (Adams, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part). Members of the news media have been granted access to public records routinely, however, since the City of Hoover began requiring the written request form, simply by identifying their reason as "public records request pursuant to Alabama law" or some similar statement.

    The Supreme Court of Alabama has held “a requester is not required to demonstrate good cause before he or she is entitled to inspect public writings.”  Ex parte Perch, 17 So. 3d 649, 651 (Ala. 2009) (holding that an inmate did not have to prove that his requests for public records were relevant or necessary for him to challenge the validity of his conviction).

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  • Alaska

    Alaska law does not purport to limit access based on why or on whose behalf the records are sought, or based on the use to be made of the records. See AS 40.25.120. The Alaska Supreme Court has noted, in contrasting disclosure under the Public Records Act and civil discovery rules, that the statute providing for access to public records “furthers the public’s general right to know and ensures government accountability,” and in the context of the records statute, “the requesting party’s need for the information is irrelevant.” Rowan B. v. State, Dept. of Health & Social Services, 320 P.3d 1152, 1156-57 (Alaska 2014) (discussion federal court ruling applying FOIA).  However, in certain unique circumstances, the requester's purpose may have an effect. For example, when public records are sought by a party involved in litigation, the litigant's right of access is governed by court rules concerning discovery rather than by the Public Records Act, AS 40.25.122.  The need for information as a litigant may outweigh, for example, law enforcement agencies’ interests in not disclosing it, Rowan v. DHSS, 320 P.3d at 1157, and use of records obtained through discovery may be subject to limitations imposed by the court in that context. See Jones v. Jennings. [Note that the Alaska Supreme Court has referred to AS 40.25.122's limitation on disclosure to "litigants," except through discovery, as "inexplicable," and said that "an equal protection challenge to this provision "is not, at first blush, implausible." Brady v. State, 965 P.2d 1, 19 (Alaska 1998); Copeland v. Ballard, 210 P.3d 1197, 1203 (Alaska 2009). The Court in Brady, however, found the State's claim that the plaintiff in that case had not been treated any differently from any other person "cogent," and failed to address the equal protection claim because it found that the plaintiff had failed to develop or brief it adequately. Id. at 19-20.  It likewise declined to consider these arguments in Copeland because Copeland and Ott failed to raise these arguments.]

    Similarly, though it is assumed that the Public Records Act generally does not permit public officials to require citizens to state their reasons for requesting records (the Alaska Supreme Court has not addressed this expressly, but has intimated this, see Griswold v. Homer City Council,        P.3d        , 2018 WL 4375455, at *4 (Alaska, September 14, 2018)), the court has stated that in order to overcome a claim of executive or deliberative process privilege, a requester may be required to state reasons for seeking access so that the interests of the parties can be balanced against one another. A similar situation arises in the context of provisions of statutes or ordinances that impose a balancing test (e.g., the right to withhold medical, personnel, payroll or other similar records where disclosure would constitute an "unwarranted invasion of privacy").

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  • Arizona

    “[A] person’s right to public records under the Public Records Law is not conditioned on his or her showing, or a court finding, that the documents are relevant to anything.”  Bolm v. Custodian of Records of Tucson Police Dep't, 193 Ariz. 35, 39, 969 P.2d 200, 204 (Ct. App. 1998).

    Commercial Use. Public records may be used for commercial purposes. A.R.S. § 39-121.03(A).

    If the records custodian determines that the proposed commercial use of public records would constitute “a misuse of public records or . . . an abuse of the right to receive public records, the custodian may apply to the governor requesting that the governor by executive order prohibit the furnishing of copies, printouts or photographs for such commercial purpose.”  A.R.S. § 39-121.03(B).  If the governor fails to issue an executive order prohibiting the disclosure within thirty (30) days of the application date, the custodian of public records must provide the copies, printouts or photographs upon being paid the statutory fee.  Id.

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  • Arkansas

    A requester’s purpose or motive in seeking access to records is usually immaterial. E.g., Ark. Op. Att’y Gen. Nos. 2003-325. See also Furman v. Holloway, 312 Ark. 378, 849 S.W.2d (1993) (rejecting argument that inmate had to show “particularized need” to inspect Department of Correction records, where neither statute governing access to those records nor administrative regulation contained such a requirement). However, the requester’s purpose for seeking access is apparently relevant when he or she seeks personnel records, which are exempt to the extent that their disclosure would cause a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. Ark. Code Ann. § 25-19-105(b)(12). See Stilley v. McBride, 332 Ark. 306, 965 S.W.2d 125 (1998) (requester’s “sole reason” for seeking access to home addresses of police officers was to “utilize a cheaper method of obtaining service of process on the officers” in a civil rights action, and this purpose “has little or nothing to do” with learning about “what [the] government is up to”); Ark. Op. Att’y Gen. No. 2001-091 (in applying personnel records exemption, custodian “may consider the purpose for which [the information] was requested and whether that purpose is consistent with the purposes of the FOIA”); Ark. Op. Att’y Gen. No. 98-152 (suggesting that employee’s home address and names of family members are exempt where information is requested for purpose of harassment or causing harm).

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  • California

    There are no limitations on access to public records based on the purpose for which the record is being requested, if the record is otherwise subject to disclosure. Cal. Gov't Code § 7921.300. A member of the public need not state the purpose for requesting records. See Los Angeles Unif. Sch. Dist. v. Superior Court, 228 Cal. App. 4th 222, 242, 175 Cal. Rptr. 3d 90 (2014); CBS Broad. Inc. v. Superior Court, 91 Cal. App. 4th 892, 909, 110 Cal. Rptr. 2d 889 (2001); City of San Jose v. Superior Court, 74 Cal. App. 4th 1008, 1018, 88 Cal. Rptr. 2d 552 (1999); State Bd. of Equalization v. Superior Court, 10 Cal. App. 4th 1177, 1191, 13 Cal. Rptr. 2d 342 (1992). This is so because “[t]he motive of the particular requester is irrelevant; the question instead is whether disclosure serves the public interest.” Cty. of Santa Clara v. Superior Court, 170 Cal. App. 4th 1301, 1324, 89 Cal. Rptr. 3d 374 (2009) (rejecting county’s standing argument that open government group had no particularized interest in GIS basemap data other than “generalized proclamation of the ‘public’s right to know’ . . . ”). Stated another way, what is material is the public interest in disclosure, not the private interest of a requesting party. State Bd. of Equalization, 10 Cal. App. 4th at 1191.

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  • Colorado

    Because all non-exempt public records are declared to be available for public inspection and copying, the purpose of the person requesting the records does not affect the right to inspect public records. Anderson v. Home Ins. Co., 924 P.2d 1123, 1126 (Colo. App. 1996).

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  • Connecticut

    The Supreme Court has held that whether records are disclosable under FOIA “does not depend in any way on the status or motive of the applicant for disclosure, because the act vindicates the public’s right to know, rather than the rights of any individual.” Chief of Police v. FOIC, 252 Conn. 377, 387, 746 A.2d 1264 (2000). See also Groton Police Dep’t. v. FOIC, 104 Conn. App. 150, 931 A.2d 989 (2007) (disclosure does not depend on status or motive of person requesting record). The Superior Court has also held that there is no requirement under FOIA that a requester give a “good reason” for the request in order to appeal to the FOIC. See Wildin v. FOIC, No. CV 97-0572290, 1998 WL 345539 (Conn. Super. June 17, 1998), aff’d, 56 Conn. App. 683, 746 A.2d 175 (2000); Town of Bloomfield v. FOIC, 4 Conn. L. Trib. No. 31 (Conn. Super. 1978); see also Town of Glastonbury v. FOIC, 9 Conn. L. Trib. No. 6 (Conn. Super. 1982) (disclosure of teacher names and addresses is not an invasion of privacy even if used for commercial purposes). The FOIC has also held that the requester’s purpose is irrelevant under FOIA. See Edwards v. Town of Glastonbury, Do. #FIC 85-142 (Jan. 6, 1986). In Conn. Alcohol and Drug Abuse Comm’n v. FOIC, 11 Conn. L. Rptr. No. 7, 208 (Conn. Super. 1994), rev’d on other grounds, 233 Conn. 28, 657 A.2d 630 (1995), the Superior Court held that under Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-213(b), a litigant against a public agency may avail itself of rights under FOIA regardless of the availability of discovery procedures in the pending civil suit. See also Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-213(b)(1) (FOIA does not limit discovery rights of litigants); Chief of Police v. FOIC, 252 Conn. 377, 746 A. 2d 1264 (2000) (FOIA and discovery rules are independent methods for obtaining information).

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  • Delaware

    The requester’s purpose (e.g., “commercial purpose”) cannot affect his right to receive records. New Castle County Vocational-Technical Educ. Ass’n v. Board of Educ., 1978 WL 4637 (Del. Ch. Sept. 25, 1978) (declining to find as a basis for excluding a request the fact that the request was made by a labor organization).

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  • District of Columbia

    The statute does not require a requester to state or explain the purpose of the request. The purpose of the request may be considered, however, in the context of certain exemptions. When privacy rights are pitted against the requester's interest in disclosure of information, a request for material may be more likely to fail if the requester is acting for "private" purposes. For example, the Mayor's office has ruled that when an individual seeks personnel files of police officers to use in a civil action against the officers, disclosure serves no public purpose that would outweigh the officers' privacy rights in the files. Emily Yinger, Esq. v. Metro. Police Dep't, FOIA App. No. 93-25 (Office of the Mayor, Oct. 5, 1994) (upholding the police department's invocation of the § 2-534(a)(2) privacy exemption); accord Velrey Props. Inc. v. Dep't of Human Servs., FOIA App. No. 94-45 (Office of the Mayor, May 17, 1995); see also Fraternal Order of Police, Metro. Police Labor Comm. v. District of Columbia, 124 A.3d 69, 77 (D.C. 2015) (“The only relevant public interest in disclosure to be weighed in this [2-534(a)(2)] balance is the extent to which disclosure would serve the core purpose of the FOIA, which is contributing significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government.”) (internal quotation marks omitted).

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  • Florida

    Florida does not require requesters to demonstrate a special or legitimate interest in a document in order to secure the right of inspection under Chapter 119.  Thus, mere curiosity or even blatant commercial interest do not vest in either the courts or the records custodian discretion to deny inspection.  See, e.g.State ex rel. Davidson v. Couch, 156 So. 297 (Fla. 1934) (explaining that one does not have to be a taxpayer or have a “special interest” in public documents to inspect them); Bevan v. Wanicka, 505 So. 2d 116 (Fla. 2d DCA 1987) (noting that public records law does not condition inspection on requirement that person disclose background information about himself); News-Press Publ’g Co. Inc. v. Gadd, 388 So. 2d 276 (Fla. 2d DCA 1980); Warden v. Bennett, 340 So. 2d 977, 979 (Fla. 2d DCA 1976); State ex rel. Cummer v. Pace, 159 So. 679 (Fla. 1935).

    Furthermore, a requester may not be required to provide a reason for a request. See Barfield v. Sch. Bd. of Manatee Cnty., 135 So. 3d 560, 562 (Fla. 2d DCA 2014) (“An individual’s reason for requesting a public record is irrelevant”); Curry v. State, 811 So. 2d 736, 742 (Fla. 4th DCA 2002) (“The motivation of the person seeking the records does not impact the person’s right to see them under the Public Records Act.”); Lorei v. Smith, 464 So. 2d 1330 (Fla. 2d DCA 1985) (noting the purpose of request for access is immaterial and breadth of right to access is virtually unfettered).

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  • Georgia

    The purpose for which public records are requested is irrelevant. See, e.g., Atchison v. Hosp. Auth., 245 Ga. 494, 495, 265 S.E.2d 801, 802 (1980) (requester not disqualified because he may intend to share requested records with others); Smith v. Northside Hosp., 347 Ga. App. 700, 705, 820 S.E.2d 758, 764 (2018) (purpose has “no bearing” on whether a requester has standing to seek access to public records). See generally Office of the Attorney General, Georgia’s Sunshine Laws (2019) at 5 (“A requester of public records does not have to state the purpose of the request.”). There are certain kinds of public records for which access is restricted to certain requesters or only for certain purposes but such restrictions are rare and explicitly delineated in the Act, see, e.g., O.C.G.A. § 50-18-72(a)(5) (limiting access to motor vehicle accident reports), § 50-18-72(a)(20) (limiting access to social security numbers, etc.), or elsewhere in the Georgia code, see, e.g., § 35-1-19 (limiting access to booking photographs); § 45-16-27(e) (limiting access to certain crime scene photos, etc.).

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  • Hawaii

    The UIPA does not limit the use by private individuals of records obtained under its provisions. The requester's purpose, with a few exceptions noted infra, generally becomes relevant only when disclosure occurs between or as a result of interagency disclosure or when disclosure is governed by a statute or provision other than the UIPA. See Right to Inspect Your Medical File Possessed by State Department of Public Safety, OIP Op. Ltr. No. 93-7 (July 27, 1993) ("a requester's reason or purpose in requesting access is generally irrelevant to the merits of the person's request"). The burden is on the party seeking to avoid disclosure to prove that a particular use implicates an interest protected under the exceptions supporting denial of access. See, e.g., Disclosure of Hawaiian Homelands Waiting List, OIP Op. Ltr. No. 89-4 (Nov. 9, 1989) (holding that only public interests protected under the law can outweigh private interests).

    The primary determinant of accessibility is not the purpose of the request, the use to which the information will be put, or the type of document in which it appears but the nature of the information itself. Applicability of UIPA (Modified) to State Financial Assistance Programs Records, OIP Op. Ltr. No. 89-5 (Nov. 20, 1989).

    Specific exceptions: Section 2 of Act 262 amended Chapter 89 (Collective Bargaining) to add a new section affording access to personal records by an employee organization if the records "are relevant to the investigation or processing of a grievance." See Haw. Rev. Stat. § 89-16.5 (emphasis added). Also, the UIPA permits disclosure of information from the state's motor vehicle registration files "provided that the person requesting such files [has] a legitimate reason as determined by rules." Haw. Rev. Stat. § 92F-12(b)(6) (emphasis added); see also id. § 91-2(a)(1) (1996) (requiring agencies to adopt rules "whereby the public may obtain information or make submittals or requests").

    Particularly when personal or corporate records are involved, however, the purpose for disclosure between government agencies is quite material. See List of Employers That are Self-Insured for Workers' Compensation Purposes, OIP Op. Ltr. No. 92-7 (June 29, 1992). Interagency disclosure of government records is generally prohibited unless it falls under one of the UIPA's exceptions. Section 92F-19 limits interagency disclosure on the basis not only of the involved agencies' identities but also on the basis of the purpose(s) for the sought after disclosure. Interagency disclosure must be "necessary for the performance of the requesting agency's duties and functions" and "[c]ompatible with the purpose for which the information was collected or obtained" or "[c]onsistent with the conditions or reasonable expectations of use and disclosure under which the information was provided." Id. § 92F-19(a)(1). If disclosure is made to the State Archives (where most records are available for public inspection) it must be "for the purposes of historical preservation, administrative maintenance, or destruction." Id. § 92F-19(a)(2). Disclosure "for a civil or criminal law enforcement activity authorized by law" may be made to "another state agency, another state, the federal government, or foreign law enforcement agency or authority" if made pursuant to written agreement or request or verbal request under prescribed circumstances. Id. § 92F-19(a)(3). Disclosures to a foreign government may be made "pursuant to an executive agreement, compact, treaty or statute." Id. § 92F-19(a)(5). Disclosure pursuant to court order is also exempted from the general prohibition on interagency disclosure. Id. § 92F-19(a)(7). Disclosure to "authorized officials of another agency, another state, or the federal government [must be] for the purpose of auditing or monitoring an agency program that receives federal, state or county funding." Haw. Rev. Stat. § 92F-19(a)(8). Disclosure to the Legislative Auditor, the Legislative Reference Bureau, or the State Ombudsman must be "for the performance of their respective functions." Id. § 92F-19(a)(9).

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  • Idaho

    A person need not state a purpose for a request for public records. Furthermore, the statute prohibits public agencies from inquiring as to why a person wants to a public record, “except: (a) [t]o verify the identity of the requester . . . (b) [t]o ensure that the requested record or information will not be used for purposes of a mailing or telephone list prohibited by section 74-120, Idaho Code, or as otherwise provided by law; or (c) [a]s required for purposes of protecting personal information from disclosure under chapter 2, title 49, Idaho Code, and federal law.” Idaho Code § 74-102(5)(a)-(c).

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  • Illinois

    The FOIA states that a public body may not require the requester to specify the purpose for a request, except to determine whether the records are requested for a commercial purpose or whether to grant a request for a fee waiver. 5 ILCS 140.3(c).  But it is a violation of the FOIA for a requester to knowingly obtain a public record for a commercial purpose without disclosing that it is for a commercial purpose, if requested to do so by the public body. 5 ILCS 140/3.1(c).

    The legislative intent section states that the Act is not intended to be used to further a commercial enterprise, violate individual privacy or disrupt the day-to-day working of public bodies. See 5 ILCS 140/1. However, the Illinois Supreme Court has stated that this section is simply a declaration of policy or preamble. As such, it is not part of the Act itself . . . and has no substantive legal force. Lieber v. Board of Trs., 176 Ill. 2d 401, 680 N.E.2d 374, 223 Ill. Dec. 641 (1997). Further, the Illinois Supreme Court has noted that the Act does not require that persons requesting information explain their need for it or their planned use of it. Family Life League v. Dep’t of Pub. Aid, 112 Ill.2d 449, 456, 493 N.E.2d 1054, 1057-58, 98 Ill. Dec. 33, 36-37 (1986).

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  • Indiana

    “No request may be denied because the person making the request refuses to state the purpose of the request, unless such condition is required by other applicable statute.” Ind. Code § 5-14-3-3(a).

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  • Iowa

    The statute does not limit access to records based upon the purpose of the request. See generally Ne. Council on Substance Abuse, Inc. v. Iowa Dep’t of Pub. Health, 513 N.W.2d 757 (Iowa 1994); see also 78 Op. Att'y Gen. 725, 728 (Oct. 30, 1978) ("Certainly [the statute] does not concern itself with the purpose of the examination.").

    Those whose records are records "of or belonging to this state or any county, city, township, school corporation, political subdivision, nonprofit corporation whose facilities or indebtedness are supported in whole or in part with property tax revenue and which is licensed to conduct pari-mutuel wagering pursuant to chapter 99D [the Iowa Pari-mutuel Wagering Act], or tax-supported district in this state, or any branch, department, board, bureau, commission, council or committee of any of the foregoing" are subject to the statute. Iowa Code § 22.1 (2017).

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  • Kansas

    Public inspection refers to the right of the public to inspect governmental records when there is a laudable object to accomplish or a real and actual interest in obtaining the information. State, Dep’t. of Social and Rehab. Servs. v. Pub. Emp. Relations Bd., 815 P.2d 66, 72, 249 Kan. 163, 170 (1991).

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  • Kentucky

    The requester may be required to disclose whether he will use the records for a "commercial purpose" and, if so, may be charged a higher fee. See Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.874(4). "Publication or related use of a public record by a newspaper or periodical" and "[u]se of a public record by a radio or television station in its news or other informational programs" is not a "commercial purpose." Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.870(4)(b). Use of a public record in the preparation for litigation or claims settlement is also not a “commercial purpose.” Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.870(4)(b).

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  • Louisiana

    The requester's purpose may not affect his right to obtain records, as the custodian of the records "shall make no inquiry of any person who applies for a public record, except an inquiry as to the age and identification of the person." La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 44:32; Bauer v. Maestri, 676 So.2d 1096 (La. App. 5th Cir. 1996) (irrelevant that requester previously sought same records through discovery); Webb v. Shreveport, 371 So.2d 316 (La. App. 2nd Cir.), writ denied, 374 So.2d 657 (La. 1979). See Op. Att'y Gen. 90-330, rejecting an assessor's contention that requester's desire to sell tax rolls for profit affected public record status of rolls. One exception to this rule is that a convicted felon in custody who has exhausted his or her appellate remedies may request only records that are related to post-conviction relief. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 44:31.1.  However, an attorney for an inmate is not similarly limited, Boren v. Taylor, 223 So.3d 1130 (La. 2017).

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  • Maine

    A requester need not state the purpose of a request to exercise the right to inspect and copy public records. However, the purpose of a request is relevant in some narrow instances (e.g., certain categories of records may be released only for qualified research purposes).

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  • Maryland

    The purpose of the request is not a factor. Unlike the common law, the PIA does not restrict an applicant's general right of access to public records based upon the purpose for which a request is made. See Superintendent v. Henschen, 279 Md. 468, 473, 369 A.2d 588, 561 (1977).

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  • Massachusetts

    The right to receive records is not limited by the requestor's purpose or reason for wanting the records. Bougas v. Chief of Police of Lexington, 371 Mass. 59, 64, 354 N.E.2d 872, 877 (1976); Direct-Mail Servs, Inc. v. Registrar of Motor Vehicles, 296 Mass. 353, 356, 5 N.E.2d 545, 546 (1937); Logan v. Comm’r of Dep’t of Indus. Accidents, 68 Mass. App. Ct. 533, 534 n.3, 863 N.E.2d 559, 561 n.3; Antell v. Attorney Gen., 52 Mass. App. Ct. 244, 245 n.1, 752 N.E.2d 823, 824 n.1 (2001); Cunningham v. Health Officer of Chelsea, 7 Mass. App. Ct. 861, 862, 385 N.E.2d 1011, 1012-13 (1979).  A custodian may not question the reason for a request, except: (1) when the requested records concern information that may be exempt under the public safety exemption, (2) to determine whether the requester seeks the records for a commercial purpose, or (3) to determine whether to grant a fee waiver request.  See 950 CMR 32.06(2)(h).

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  • Michigan

    The FOIA, in keeping with Michigan's historical tradition, does not impose upon the public any obligation to "justify" access to public records. The FOIA does not require the requester to reveal why it needs or wants the information — purpose is irrelevant. State Emps. Ass'n v. Dep't of Mgmt. & Budget, 428 Mich. 104, 404 N.W.2d 606 (1987).

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  • Minnesota

    The Act does not require that the requester state a purpose when requesting data under the Act. In fact, such a requirement would seem to fly in the face of the Act's presumption that all government data "shall be public" unless otherwise classified. Minn. Stat. § 13.03, subd. 1. The only caveat to this general principle is that when a court is required to balance a benefit conferred upon the requester or the public against a potential harm created by the access, the court may consider the purpose of the request to be a factor in its decision. See e.g. Minn. Stat. § 13.39, subd. 2a.

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  • Mississippi

    The requester's purpose does not affect the requester's right to receive records, except with respect to certain exemptions. See, e.g., § 41-57-2 (Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics records limited to those with a "legitimate and tangible interest"); §25-61-7(2) (purpose taken into account in setting fee for “electronically accessible data”).

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  • Missouri

    The requester’s purpose generally does not affect his or her right to receive records under either the Sunshine Law or the Public Records Law. See, e.g., In re Transit Casualty Co., 435 S.W.3d 293, 300 (Mo. banc 2001) (“Citizens of Missouri have the right to inspect and copy any public record even if there is no apparent legal interest to be subserved”); State ex rel. Pulitzer Missouri Newspapers, Inc. v. Seay, 330 S.W.3d 823 (Mo.Ct.App. 2011); State ex rel. Gray v. Brigham, 622 S.W.2d 734, 735 (Mo.Ct.App. 1981). But, see, Fletcher v. Tomlinson, No. 4:14-CV-999, 2014 WL 5425555 (E.D. Mo. 2014) (holding information regarding police practices and equipment was not required to be disclosed because it did not affect the general public). In addition, a number of the statutory exemptions from the disclosure requirements of the two open records acts allow access to records for those with a direct and tangible interest in the records. See, e.g., Vital Records Act, Mo.Rev.Stat. § 193.245 -.246.

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  • Montana

    Subject to the "privacy" concerns expressed by the Montana Supreme Court and discussed below, the purpose for which the records are requested has no bearing or relevance on the right of the requester to receive the records. However, see Engrav v. Cragun, 236 Mont. 260, 769 P.2d 1224 (1989), where the Montana Supreme Court decided that under the Montana Criminal Justice Information Act, a college student did not demonstrate sufficient interest in confidential criminal justice information to outweigh rights of privacy.

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  • Nebraska

    The Nebraska public records statutes do not condition access on the purpose for which records are sought.

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  • Nevada

    Any person may request records under the Nevada Public Records Act (“NPRA”). NRS 239.0107(1).

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  • New Hampshire

    Access to records under the Statute is not governed by the requester's purpose. Union Leader Corp. v. City of Nashua, 141 N.H. 473 (1996) (plaintiff's motives irrelevant).

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  • New Jersey

    Under OPRA, the purpose for requesting the government records is irrelevant. See Williams v. Board of Education of Atlantic City Public Schools, 329 N.J. Super. 308 (App. Div. 2000), cert. denied, 165 N.J. 488 (2000). Under the common law, more than citizen status and good faith are necessary when there is a compelling governmental need for confidentiality. Loigman v. Kimmelman, 102 N.J.  98, 105-106 (1986).

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  • New Mexico

    No person requesting records shall be required to state the reasons for inspecting the records. NMSA 1978 § 14-2-8(C) (2009).

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  • New York

    “[T]he status or need of the person seeking access is generally of no consequence in construing FOIL and its exemptions.” Matter of Data Tree, LLC v Romaine, 9 NY3d 454, 462-463, 880 NE2d 10, 849 NYS2d 489 (2007); Capital Newspapers Division of Hearst Corp. v. Burns, 67 N.Y.2d 562, 496 N.E.2d 665, 505 N.Y.S.2d 576 (1986); Matter of Gould v. N.Y. City Police Dep’t, 89 NY2d 267, 274, 675 NE2d 808, 653 NYS2d 54 (1996); Daily Gazette Co. v. City of Schenectady, 93 N.Y.2d 145, 688 N.Y.S.2d 472 (1999) (“An agency’s inquiry into, or reliance upon the status and motive of a FOIL applicant would be administratively infeasible, and its intrusiveness would conflict with the remedial purposes of FOIL.”); Matter of Porco v. Fleischer, 100 A.D.3d 639, 640, 953 N.Y.S.2d 282, 283 (2d Dep’t 2012) (“Neither the status of the person seeking access to the records nor the purpose of the FOIL request is relevant to an assessment of whether any exemption applies.”); Edwards v. N.Y. State Police, 44 A.D.3d 1216, 843 N.Y.S.2d 729 (3d Dep’t 2007) (court disregarded the petitioner’s personal purpose for crime-scene photographs and weighed the general public interest in disclosure against the personal privacy interests at stake.);Scott v. Records Access Officer, 65 N.Y.2d 294, 480 N.E.2d 1071, 491 N.Y.S.2d 289 (1985); Buffalo News v. Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority, 163 A.D.2d 830, 558 N.Y.S.2d 364, (4th Dep’t 1990); New York 1 News v. President of the Borough of Staten Island, 631 N.Y.S.2d 479 (Sup. Ct. Kings Cty. 1995) (“FOIL does not require that the party requesting records make any showing of need, good faith or legitimate purpose . . . .”).

    Thus, “FOIL’s scope should not be restricted to ‘the purpose for which a document was produced or the function to which it relates.’“ Russo v. Nassau Cmty. Coll., 81 N.Y.2d 690, 698, 623 N.E.2d 15, 603 N.Y.S.2d 294 (1993) (quoting Westchester Rockland Newspapers v. Kimball, 50 N.Y.2d 575, 581); Muniz v. Roth, 163 Misc.2d 293, 620 N.Y.S.2d 700 (Sup. Ct. Tompkins Cty. 1994) (FOIL does not require a showing of need for the requested record).  Even in the instance where the requester’s purpose relates to potential or pending litigation against the agency, access remains unaffected under FOIL. M. Farbman & Sons v. N.Y. City, 62 N.Y.2d 75, 464 N.E.2d 437, 476 N.Y.S.2d 69 (1984) (“[W]e hold that FOIL's mandate of open disclosure requires that an agency's public records remain as available to its litigation adversary as to any other person.”). “[T]he standing of one who seeks access to records under the Freedom of Information Law is as a member of the public, and is neither enhanced, Fitzpatrick v. Cty. of Nassau, 83 Misc.2d 884, 372 N.Y.S.2d 939, aff’d 53 A.D.2d 628 (2d Dep’t 1976), nor restricted, Burke v. Yudelson, 51 A.D.2d 673, 378 N.Y.S.2d 165 (4th Dep’t 1976), because he is also a litigant or potential litigant.” John P. v. Whalen, 54 N.Y.2d 89, 429 N.E.2d 117, 444 N.Y.S.2d 598 (1981). See also M. Farbman & Sons v. New York City, 62 N.Y.2d 75, 464 N.E.2d 437, 476 N.Y.S.2d 69 (1984); Property Valuation Analysts Inc. v. Williams, 164 A.D.2d 131, 563 N.Y.S.2d 545 (3d Dep’t 1990); Ragusa v. New York State Dep’t of Law, 152 Misc.2d 602, 578 N.Y.S.2d 959 (Sup. Ct. 1991); Hudson River Fisherman’s Ass’n v. New York City Dep’t of Environmental Protection, No. 7679-90 (Sup. Ct., New York Cty., July 12, 1990); Cf. Brady v. City of New York, 84 A.D.2d 113, 445 N.Y.S.2d 724 (1st Dep’t 1982) (denying access where litigant had filed note of issue); Travelers Indemnity Co. v. Cty. of Westchester, N.Y.L.J. April 5, 1994 (Sup. Ct. Westchester Cty.); Benedict v. Albany Cty., 22 Misc.3d 597, 867 N.Y.S.2d 906 (Sup. Ct. 2008) (District Attorney’s characterization of the Article 78 challenge as a mandamus to compel was incorrect; a petitioner does not have to demonstrate a “clear legal right” to a FOIL request).

    The requester’s purpose has been deemed material in certain instances.  See, e.g., Matter of Newsday Inc. v. State Dep’t of Transportation, 5 N.Y.3d 84, 800 N.Y.S.2d 67 (2005) (“Where a FOIL request for materials subject to [23 U.S.C. § 409] is made by a tort plaintiff, or by someone acting on such a plaintiff’s behalf, perhaps denial of the request will be justified”); Fink v. Lefkowitz, 47 N.Y.2d 567, 393 N.E.2d 463, 419 N.Y.S.2d 467 (1979) (denying access to portions of an office manual of the Special Prosecutor for Nursing Homes under the “law enforcement” exemption, stating “the purpose of the Freedom of Information Law is not to enable persons to use agency records to frustrate pending or threatened investigations nor to use that information to construct a defense to impede a prosecution”). The sale or release of lists of names and addresses may be denied if such lists would be used for commercial or fund-raising purposes. N.Y. Pub. Off. Law § 89(2)(b)(iii) (McKinney 1988).  See N.Y. State Rifle and Pistol Ass’n, Inc. v. Kelly, 55 A.D.3d 222, 863 N.Y.S.2d 439 (1st Dep’t 2008) (digital list of the names and addresses of all pistol licensees in N.Y.C. was exempt from disclosure because respondent provided specific proof of petitioner’s intent to use the requested materials for the purposes of fund-raising and/or commercial gain).

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  • North Carolina

    The requester’s purpose is irrelevant, and public officials are prohibited from inquiring about it. G.S. § 132-6(b).

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  • North Dakota

    The purpose of the request does not affect the right to receive records. There is no statutory requirement to disclose a purpose when requesting or accessing public records. Generally, the public entity from which the records are requested cannot ask why the records are requested, ask for identification, or require that a request be made in writing or in person.

    Although the public’s purpose cannot constrain their ability to access records, unless they are legal adversaries of the public entity (as described above), the requester’s purpose can, in certain circumstances, help them circumvent exemptions. For example, a mental health professional not treating a patient may be able to obtain confidential medical records to determine whether the patient should be subject to involuntary hospitalization. State auditors may be able to access secret files pertaining to a public entity’s operations for the purpose of the audit. Researchers may be able to obtain anonymized confidential files for scholarly purposes. N.D. Op. Att’y Gen. 94-L-267. 213 N.D.C.C. § 54-10-22.1. N.D. Op. Att’y Gen. 95-L-1; N.D. Op. Att’y Gen. 94-L-305. 214 See N.D. Op. Att’y Gen. 85-23; N.D.A.C. ch. 10-13-10; N.D.A.C. §§ 33-06-03-04; 75-01-02-01. See also North Dakota Attorney General’s Office, Open Records Manual (Oct. 2022) at 26,

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  • Ohio

    Usually, the requester's purpose cannot affect his right to receive public records. State ex rel. Quolke v. Strongsville City School Dist. Bd. Of Edn., 142 Ohio St.3d 509, 514, 33 N.E.3d 30, 34 (2015)(“the identity of the original requester, as well as his reason for requesting the records, is irrelevant.”). But Ohio Rev. Code § 149.43(B)(8) creates an exception where an incarcerated person has no right to see a public record unless a judge determines that the inmate's purpose is to "support what appears to be a justiciable claim" of the inmate.  State ex rel. Barb v. Cuyahoga Cty. Jury Comm’r, 124 Ohio St.3d 238, 921 N.E.2d 236, 2010-Ohio-120.

    Where the requester is seeking access to records of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, a commercial purpose other than newsgathering may increase the cost. Ohio Rev. Code §§ 149.43(F)(1); 149.43(F)(3).

    Also, a public school "may require disclosure of the requester's identity or the intended use" of "directory information concerning any students" to "ascertain whether the directory information is for use in a profit-making plan or activity." R.C. 3319.321. Federal law defines student directory information:  "Student's name, address, telephone listing, date and place of birth, major field of study, participation in officially-recognized activities and sports, weight and height of athletic teams, dates of attendance, degrees and awards received, and the most recent previous educational agency or institution attended by the student." 20 U.S.C. 1232g(a)(5)(A) (Family Educational Right to Privacy Act–FERPA).

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  • Oklahoma

    While a requester’s purpose will not affect his right to receive records, if the request is for a commercial purpose, it can impact on the fees a public body may charge to make the records available. 51 O.S. § 24A.5(3) State agencies may require from requesters only information designed to allow the agency to comply with the Act. 1999 OK AG 55.

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  • Oregon

    A requester’s purpose in wishing to inspect a public record is generally irrelevant. McEwan v. Holm, 226 Or. 27, 359 P.2d 413 (1961); Attorney General's Manual, § I.A. As noted in Gray v. Salem-Keizer School District, 139 Or. App. 556, 565, 912 P.2d 938 (1996), however, the requester’s purpose may be taken into consideration under those statutory exemptions that call for a determination of the public interest in disclosure.

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  • Pennsylvania

    The Right to Know Law (the “Law”) states that a commonwealth, local, legislative or judicial agency “may not deny a requester access to a record due to the intended use of the record by a requester unless otherwise provided by law.” 65 Pa. Stat. Ann. §§ 67. 301(b), 302(b), 303(b) & 304(b); see also § 703 (“A written request need not include any explanation of the requester’s reason for requesting or intended use of the records unless otherwise required by law.”). Indeed, agencies are forbidden from even asking for this information. See 65 Pa. Stat. Ann. §§ 67.1308 (expressly prohibiting agencies from creating a policy or regulation that requires a requester to “disclose the purpose or motive in requesting access to records”).

    This is consistent with precedent set under the old, pre-2008 law known as the Right to Know Act [hereinafter, the “act”] holding that a requester’s purpose and intended use of the requested records are irrelevant to his or her right of access. See, e.g., Pa. State Educ. Ass’n v. Pennsylvania, 4 A.3d 1156, 1162 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2016) (citing amendments to the 1957 Right-to-Know Law making the motive of a request irrelevant to accessibility of the record at issue); see also Wiley v. Woods, 141 A.2d 844, 849 (Pa. 1958); Envirotest Partners v. Commonwealth Dep’t of Transp., 664 A.2d 208, 213 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 1995); Hoffman v. Pa. Game Comm’n, 455 A.2d 731 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 1983).

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  • Rhode Island

    There is no limitation on the purpose for which a request for records may be made. R.I. Gen. Laws §  38-2-3.  A public record cannot be withheld based on the purpose for which the public records was sought. R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-3(j).

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  • South Carolina

    A person requesting records relating to the registration and licensing of motor vehicles must state the reason for the request. S.C. Code Ann. § 56-3-510. No other request for access to public records requires an express statement of purpose, but prohibitions on the use of certain information contained in public records may imply that a public body may ask the requester to state the intended use of the records. The South Carolina Family Privacy Protection Act of 2002, S.C. Code Ann. §§ 30-2-10 et seq. prohibits the use of state-collected personal information for commercial solicitation thereby implying that the purpose of the request may be ascertained by the government.

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  • South Dakota

    The requester’s purpose is generally not relevant under the law. However, resale or redistribution of certain subscription or licensing lists — presumably as “mailing lists” — is prohibited. SDCL §1-27-1.11.

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  • Tennessee

    Neither the statute nor case law imposes restrictions as to the requester's purpose for requesting access or the use he makes of the information obtained under the open records law. See The Capital Case Resource Center of Tennessee Inc. v. Woodall, 17 TAM 8-8, p.14 (Tenn. Ct. App. Jan,. 29, 1992) ("There is no statute which provides that exemption from disclosure is or may be premised on the purpose for which the citizen intends to use the requested documents").

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  • Texas

    A person's motive for requesting the information cannot be a consideration in determining whether the information must be disclosed. Indus. Found. of the South  v. Tex. Indus. Accident Bd., 540 S.W.2d 668, 674 (Tex. 1976), cert. denied, 430 U.S. 931 (1977); see also A & T Consultants Inc. v. Sharp, 904 S.W.2d 668, 676 (Tex. 1995) (reasoning that the legislature enacted the Act "to conform loosely to the federal Freedom of Information Act," which also bars the government from examining the motives or interests of the requestor); Tex. Comptroller of Pub. Accounts v. Attorney Gen. , No. 08-0172, 2010 WL 4910163, at *5 n.10 (Tex. 2010). Instead, Section 552.222 specifically prohibits the officer for public information from making any inquiry of a requestor other than to establish the requestor's proper identification, to clarify a request if the governmental body is unclear as to what information is requested, and to discuss with the requestor how the scope of a request might be narrowed if a large amount of information has been requested. Also, Section 552.223 provides that all requests shall be treated "uniformly without regard to the position or occupation of the requestor, the person on whose behalf the request is made, or the status of the individual as a member of the media."

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  • Utah

    Under GRAMA, a requester’s purpose is irrelevant to his or her right to inspect and receive copies of records.

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  • Vermont

    The motive of the person requesting a record is irrelevant when determining whether a request under the Public Records Act should be granted.  Finberg v. Murnane, 159 Vt. 431, 437, 623 A.2d 979, 983 (Vt. 1992).

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  • Virginia

    Purpose and Motivation: The purpose or motivation behind a request is irrelevant to a citizen's entitlement to requested information. See Associated Tax Service v. Fitzpatrick, 236 Va. 181, 187, 372 S.E.2d 625, 629 (1988).

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  • Washington

    The Public Records Act contains a few restrictions based on the requester’s purpose: (1) Agencies may not sell or provide access to lists of individuals requested for commercial purposes. RCW 42.56.070(9). This prohibition applies to requests by commercial entities such as bill collectors or process servers, but not by governmental entities such as county sheriffs, the State Patrol, or a television reception improvement district not engaged in any “profit expecting” business activity. 1983 Op. Atty. Gen. No. 9. It is universally agreed that a newspaper, engaging in newsgathering, is not affected by this exemption. (2) Imprisoned criminals may be enjoined from obtaining otherwise disclosable records, if it is shown that the request was made to harass or intimidate a public agency or employee or to assist criminal activity, or would threaten the security of a correctional facility or any person. RCW 42.56.565. (3) Certain requesters are exempt from a statutory provision that generally allows law enforcement agencies to charge requesters the costs incurred in redacting exempt material from police body worn camera footage. The exemption applies to persons directly involved in the incident depicted; specific state minority affairs commissions; and attorneys pursuing civil rights claims. RCW 42.56.240(14)(e). (4) Under a 2017 amendment to the PRA, a request “for all or substantially all” of an agency’s records is not considered a valid request for identifiable records. RCW 42.56.080(1).

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  • West Virginia

    "A FOIA requester is not required to explain why a record should be disclosed or for what purpose a record is being requested." Highland Mining Co. v. W. Va. Univ. Sch. of Medicine, 235 W. Va. 370, 774 S.E.2d 36, 47 (2015). It may, however, be advisable in some circumstances to explain if the purpose is one that the public body receiving the request is likely to endorse or have no reason to oppose.

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  • Wisconsin

    “Except as authorized under this paragraph, no request . . . may be refused because the person making the request is unwilling . . . to state the purpose of the request.” Wis. Stat. § 19.35(1)(i); but see Hempel v. City of Baraboo, 2005 WI 120, ¶ 66, 284 Wis. 2d 162, 599 N.W.2d 551, 568 (“When performing a balancing test, however, a records custodian inevitably must evaluate context to some degree,” including a requester’s motivation in seeking the documents). A person seeking greater access rights than the law provides to the subject of a government record must, of course, identify herself to the record custodian. See Wis. Stat. § 19.35(1)(am).

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  • Wyoming

    The requester's purpose cannot affect his right to receive records. "A showing of need is unnecessary to obtain access to public records and a criminal penalty is provided for those custodians who deny access." Laramie River Conservation Council v. Dinger, 577 P.2d 731, 773 (Wyo. 1977).

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