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2. When barred from attending

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  • Alaska

    Injunctive relief from a court is certainly a legal remedy available to enforce rights under the Open Meetings Act to obtain access where someone has been barred from attending what should be a public session. However, the ability to meaningfully pursue this given time constraints when a meeting is either occurring or imminent, not to mention cost considerations, make it difficult to effectively use the courts to secure access to any given meeting at which a problem arises. It is easier to obtain review afterwards to determine whether the meeting should have been closed, and rely on prospective effect to prevent recurrences of the problem. This should underscore the need for reporters and others who regularly seek access to public meetings to work with public officials in advance. Try to ensure that they are educated with respect to their obligations under the Public Records Act, and the public policies favoring liberal access to meetings of public bodies. Reporters may also try to cultivate sympathetic members of public bodies who will represent the public's interest in openness from "inside the tent."

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  • Arizona

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

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  • Arkansas

    If the citizen learns of the executive session at the meeting itself (e.g., when the announcement of a closed session is made), prospective relief is out of the question. However, the citizen should register his or her objection and argue that an open meeting is required. If a post-meeting challenge is then made under the FOIA, he or she will have exhausted administrative remedies and may seek a declaratory judgment or invalidation of the action taken at the meeting.

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  • California

    A state body or legislative body of a local agency cannot bar a person from attending or place conditions on attending a meeting; such action constitutes a violation of the open meeting laws and is actionable. Cal. Gov't Code §§ 11123, 11124, 11130 (Bagley-Keene Act); 54953, 54953.3, 54960 (Brown Act).

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  • Colorado

    In general, a person who seeks access to a meeting should attend and request admittance. Unruly or indecorous conduct of the person seeking admittance is not advisable, since this will only give the public body legitimate grounds for exclusion.

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  • Connecticut

    In Brodinsky v. FOIC, No. CV030520584S, 2004 WL 3130229 (Conn. Super. Ct. Dec. 15, 2004), the court held that a town council member who had voted against holding executive session and subsequently voluntarily absented himself from the same executive session had not been "denied access" and did not have standing to appeal to the judicial system.

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  • Delaware

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

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  • District of Columbia

    Not specifically addressed.

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  • Georgia

    An informal or formal challenge is ripe and advisable as soon as a violation of the Act has occurred or is threatened.

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  • Hawaii

    The Director of the Office of Information Practices (OIP) is charged with administration of the open meetings law and establishing the procedures for filing and responding to complaints filed by any person concerning the failure of any board to comply with the open meetings law. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 92-1.5 (Supp. 1999).

    A person who feels he or she has been illegally barred from a meeting should argue that the "board" in question is covered by the Sunshine Law, that none of the exemptions apply to the meeting, and that therefore the meeting should be open. If this fails, the person is advised to contact an attorney who can negotiate with the board's attorney and, if necessary, file suit against the "board."

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  • Illinois

    Any person, including the State's Attorney, may bring a civil action in circuit court for the judicial circuit in which the alleged noncompliance has occurred or is about to occur. See 5 ILCS 120/3(a). The action must be brought prior to or within 60 days of the meeting alleged to be in violation. See Id.

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  • Indiana

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

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  • Iowa

    Not specified.

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  • Kansas

    A demand to comply with the KOMA is never too late and can be made seconds before the meeting is held, unless the issue is notice of the meeting. K.S.A. 75-4318 requires that notice of a meeting be requested before it is required to be given (Note that other organizational statutes and ordinances require notice of meetings to be published without interconnection to KOMA).

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  • Kentucky

    When barred from attending an agency's public meeting, one may protest orally or in written form. However, the Open Meetings Act does not require contemporaneous objections. The Act only contemplates written complaints submitted after the fact.

    A public agency violates the Open Meetings Act when it fails to make a good faith effort to handle overflow crowds because Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.840 requires that “[a]ll agencies shall provide meeting room conditions, including adequate space, seating, and acoustics, which insofar as is feasible allow effective public observation of the public meetings.” See 97-OMD-28.

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  • Louisiana

    Actions to enforce the Open Meeting Law should be filed as promptly as possible after an alleged violation occurs.

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  • Maine

    A person barred from attending a public meeting may seek emergency injunctive relief to open a closed meeting.  1 M.R.S.A. § 409(3); M.R.Civ.P. 65.  A declaratory judgment may also be sought to ensure that future meetings are open to the public.

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  • Maryland

    Section 3-401, provides for enforcement of the Act through judicial review. It does not apply to matters involving the appropriation of public funds; levying a tax; or providing for the issuance of bonds, notes, or other evidences of public obligation. § 3-401(a)(1). These exceptions do not govern the use of OMCB complaint procedures. See §§ 3-205, 3-212, 3-401(a)(3). In addition, a court may not void the action of a public body due to another public body's violation of the Act. § 3-401(a)(2).

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  • Massachusetts

    When barred from attending a public meeting, litigation must be filed within 21 days after the action to be challenged becomes public.

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  • Nebraska

    Closed meeting is void if successful suit filed within 120 days of meeting. Closed meeting is voidable if successful suit filed after 120 days from meeting, but before one year after meeting. Suit is time-barred if not filed within one year of meeting. Neb. Rev. Stat. §84-1414(1).

     

     

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  • Nevada

    An injunction may be attained before the meeting, pursuant to the Nevada Rules of Civil Procedure, to require compliance with the law. NRS 241.037.

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  • New Jersey

    Whenever a member of the public believes that a meeting is being held in violation of the act, that person shall immediately state this at the meeting together with specific reasons, which shall be recorded in the minutes.  If the objections are overruled by a majority of the public body, any member of the body objecting may continue to participate at such meeting.  N.J.S.A. 10:4-17..

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  • New Mexico

    No specific special rules, but the usual rules for obtaining a Temporary Restraining Order to open a meeting would apply.  No specific statute of limitations exists, but laches may be a problem.  The general limitation period, four years, is contained at NMSA 1978 §37-1-4.

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  • North Carolina

    Any person can file suit to challenge being barred from attending a meeting of a public body and seek injunctive relief allowing access to the meeting.

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  • Ohio

    When a public body threatens to bar public attendance from a future meeting, the person seeking to attend may commence an injunction action in common pleas court. Ohio Rev. Code § 121.22(I)(1).

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  • Oklahoma

    The act does not provide an expedited procedure. It does, however, allow for the actions taken in violation of the act to be declared null and void. In re Appeal of the Order Declaring Annexation Dated June 29, 1978, supra (court invalidated action of board taken in violation of Open Meeting Act).

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  • Oregon

    The public cannot be barred unless an appropriate executive session has been called. Unless there is a statutory basis under ORS 192.660(4) or (5), representatives of the media may not be barred.

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  • South Carolina

    The act does provide that a violation of the act is an irreparable injury for which no adequate remedy at law exists, so injunctive relief may be sought. S.C. Code Ann. § 30-4-100.

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  • South Dakota

    Must be careful to assert that matter is not moot because it is capable of being repeated without any opportunity to make a timely challenge.

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  • Tennessee

    The only specified remedy for public exclusion from meeting covered by the Act is court review.

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  • Texas

    When a party desires a ruling prohibiting certain conduct—such as holding a closed meeting—a request for a prohibitory injunction should be filed before the meeting occurs.

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  • Utah

    Any person denied access to a public meeting may commence suit to compel compliance with, or enjoin violations of, the Open Meetings Act. Utah Code § 52-4-303(3)(a).

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  • Vermont

    In practice, interested persons — e.g., news reporters — try to make their concerns known to the public body as loudly and as early as possible, in the hopes that logic, or more likely political acumen, will influence the body’s decision not to go into a questionably legitimate executive session. The reality is that almost all such situations are likely to have already occurred, especially where local boards typically meet in the evening hours, before there is even an opportunity to pursue judicial relief.

    The most common relief awarded for violations of the Open Meeting Law, including when the public is barred from attending a public meeting, is to invalidate the decision and order that the public body hold a new meeting that complies with the requirements of the statute.  See, e.g., Moorcroft v. Town of Brookfield, No. 147-7-10, 2011 Vt. Super. LEXIS 81, *8 (Vt. Super. Orange County Nov. 8, 2011); Kevan v. Town of Randolph Selectboard, No. 137-7-05 2006 Vt. Super. LEXIS 7, *12 (Vt. Super. Orange County July 31, 2006).  Courts will not, however, invalidate the decision if the public body cured the Open Meeting Law violation by ratifying its decision in a subsequent meeting that complied with the statute.  See Valley Realty & Dev. v. Town of Hartford, 165 Vt. 463, 469, 685 A.2d 292, 296 (Vt. 1996).

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  • Virginia

    The individual may petition the court for a writ of mandamus pursuant to the Act's enforcement provisions. Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-3713.

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  • West Virginia

    Section 3 of the Open Meetings Act specifically authorizes the enforcement of the right to attend an open meeting through a civil action filed in the circuit court where the public agency regularly meets. The suit must be brought within 120 days "after the action complained of was taken or the decision complained of was made. W. Va. Code § 6-9A-3. No bond need be posted as a prerequisite to injunctive relief" unless the petition appears to be without merit or made with the sole intent of harassing or delaying or avoiding return by the governing body. Circuit courts are authorized to "compel compliance or enjoin noncompliance" and "annul a decision made in violation of this article." W. Va. Code § 6-9A-6.

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  • Wyoming

    It is not clear that a citizen must have been personally barred from attending to have standing to challenge an illegally closed or unnoticed meeting.

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