The implementing regulations for D.C. FOIA set out the required contents of an appeal. “An appeal to the Mayor shall be in writing. The appeal letter shall include ‘Freedom of Information Act Appeal’ or ‘FOIA Appeal’ in the subject line of the letter as well as marked on the outside of the envelope.” 1 D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 1 § 412.3. The requester also must forward a copy of the appeal to the Freedom of Information Officer or head of the agency whose denial is the subject of the appeal. Id.
The written appeal must include:
“(a) Statement of the circumstances, reasons or arguments advanced in support of disclosure;
(b) Copy of the original request, if any;
(c) Copy of any written denial issued under § 407.2; and
(d) Daytime telephone number, email address or mailing address for the requester.”
It is described in the statute as a "petition." It must be in writing but can be in letter form. It must attach a copy of the original request to the custodian and any written response from the custodian. 950 CMR 32.08(2).
A fairly detailed description should have been included in the original request to the custodian.
The letter should include a brief statement as to why the record is public or, if the custodian has given reason for denial, refutation of that reason.
The Law requires that the appeal “state the grounds upon which the requester asserts that the record is a public record, legislative record or financial record and shall address any grounds stated by the agency for delaying or denying the request.” 65 Pa. C.S.A. § 67.1101(a)(1). The Office of Open Records maintains a standard appeal form on its website. https://www.openrecords.pa.gov/Appeals/ProceduralGuidelines.cfm.
An appeal must identify the record requested. The Law requires that the appeal “address any grounds stated by the agency for delaying or denying the request.” Id. § 67.1101(a)(1); see, e.g., Dep’t of Corr. v. Office of Open Records, 18 A.3d 429 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2011) (reversing Office of Open Records determination that the requester sufficiently addressed the grounds for denial by articulating the procedural history of the request and stating that the “right to know requests are public”).
There are no statutory requirements for the appeal to the agency head; it is not even required that it be in writing, although in practice it should be to be of any real use. The appeal need not explain why the denial is erroneous, but doing so would probably be helpful. At the very least, the appeal should attach or refer to the written denial of the custodian and state that it is being appealed.