Skip to content

6. Time limit for filing suit

Posts

  • Alaska

    There is a 180-day specific statute of limitations set out in Alaska law for bringing actions relating to open meetings violations. AS 44.62.310(f). As a general rule, there is a doctrine called "laches" which prevents someone from bringing a claim after a period of undue delay, and another doctrine called "mootness" that might preclude a party from asserting a claim after the issue has as a practical matter been resolved. The Alaska Supreme Court had ruled that laches and mootness would not serve to bar the bringing of complaints about open meetings violations, given the important public interest involved in such questions. ACCFT, 677 P.2d at 892. Compare Hayes v. Charney, 693 P.2d 831, 835 n. 10 (Alaska 1985) (carving out exception to general inapplicability of mootness doctrine in OMA cases for case involving state legislature); cf. Hayes, 693 P.2d at 835-836 (Rabinowitz, J. dissenting).

    The legislature's imposition of the 180-day time limit when it revised the OMA in 1994 effectively reverses the court's ruling concerning laches, but did not affect the rulings generally declining to apply the "mootness" doctrine to avoid addressing OMA violations. To that extent, the language of the court's rulings remains instructive.

    In certain circumstances a decision taken in violation of the OMA, and never adequately cured, will be allowed to stand. A significant part of the OMA remedy requires that the nature and circumstances of violations come to light. Because we have previously held that voluntary ratification of defective actions under the OMA does not necessarily render the violations moot, declaratory relief will frequently be available to OMA plaintiffs.

    ACCFT 677 P.2d at 892. ACCFT 677 P.2d at 892. However, In Mullins v. Local Boundary Commission, 226 P.3d 1012 (Alaska 2010), the Alaska Supreme Court explained and narrowed the OMA exception to the mootness doctrine articulated in ACCFT. The plaintiff in Mullins alleged that the LBC violated the Open Meetings Act by using information gathered during a private tour of a proposed borough in making its decision. Unlike in ACCFT, the Court said, the LBC's approval decision in Mullins was not reaffirmed at a curative meeting, and it is not still in effect. “Mullins, unlike the plaintiff in ACCFT, cannot obtain the substantive relief she seeks because the LBC's decision allegedly made in violation of the OMA has been voided by subsequent events (defeat of the proposed action in a voter initiative]. Where a decision is still in effect when an OMA claim is brought, the holding in ACCFT requires that a court review the alleged OMA violation even if a curative meeting was held. Where a decision is no longer in effect, as is the case here, a court should conduct a standard mootness analysis to determine whether to address the OMA claim. In this case, for the reasons described above, Mullins's public participation challenge to LBC's private car tour as a violation of the OMA is moot and we will not consider it.” 226 P.3d at1020.

    Note that the 180-day time limit would not apply to the extent the suit seeks relief other than voiding a decision made or action taken. For example, a suit seeking a declaratory judgment that public officials violated the OMA could still be brought.

    view more
  • Arkansas

    The FOIA contains no time limit for filing a suit challenging the agency’s action. Accordingly, the general five-year statute of limitations apparently applies. See Ark. Code Ann. § 16-56-115. However, if the plaintiff seeks invalidation of the action taken at the closed meeting, it is unlikely that the court would permit this remedy if there has been a considerable passage of time between the meeting and the filing of the suit. See Rehab Hosp. Serv. Corp., v. Delta-Hills Health Sys. Agency Inc., 285 Ark. 397, 687 S.W.2d 840 (1985).

    view more
  • California

    Under the Bagley-Keene Act, a court action that seeks to nullify action taken in violation of the Act, must be filed within 90 days of the date the action was taken. Cal. Gov't Code § 11130.3.

    (The Legislature also amended this section of the Bagley-Keene Act in 1999 to supersede Regents of the Univ. of California v. Superior Court (Molloy), 20 Cal.4th 509, 976 P.2d 808, 85 Cal. Rptr. 2d 257 (1999), where the California Supreme Court held that a suit must be brought within 30 days of the violation to nullify the action.)

    Under the Brown Act, a person who seeks to declare an action null and void in violation of Sections 54953 (open and public meetings), 54954.2 (posting of agenda), 54954.5 (description requirements for closed sessions), 54954.6 (public meeting on general tax or assessment and notice thereof), or 54956 (special meetings and notice thereof), must make a written demand to the legislative body to cure or correct an action taken in closed session within 90 days from the date the action was taken. Cal. Gov't Code § 54960.1(c)(1); Ingram v. Flippo, 74 Cal. App. 4th 1280, 84 Cal. Rptr. 2d 60 (1999). However, if the action was taken in an open session but in violation of Section 54954.2 (action or discussion on item not appearing on posted agenda), the written demand must be made within 30 days of the date the action was taken. Cal. Gov't Code § 54960.1(c)(1).

    A local legislative body then has 30 days from receipt of the demand to cure or correct the violation. Cal. Gov’t Code § 54960.1(c)(2). Within 15 days of written notice of the legislative body’s decision to cure or correct, or not cure and correct, or within 15 days of the expiration of the 30-day period to cure or correct (if no response is provided), whichever is earlier, the party making the demand must commence the action. Cal. Gov’t Code § 54960.1(c)(4). If the legislative body takes no action within the 30-day period, the 15-day period to commence an action shall commence to run the day after the 30-day period to cure or correct expires. Cal. Gov’t Code § 549601(c)(3).The action will be barred if not timely filed. Cal. Gov’t Code § 54960.1(c)(4).

    Under the Brown Act, a person seeking to file an action to determine the application of the Act to past actions pursuant to Section 54960(a) must first submit a cease and desist letter within nine months of the alleged violation. Cal. Gov’t Code § 54960.2(b)(4). The legislative body has 30 days from receipt of the demand to respond. Cal. Gov’t Code § 54960.2(b). Within 60 days from receipt of the legislative body’s response to the cease and desist letter (other than an unconditional commitment to comply), or within 60 days of the expiration of the time during which the legislative body may respond to the letter (30 days), whichever is earlier, the party submitting the letter must commence an action, or thereafter be barred from doing so. Cal. Gov’t Code § 54960.2(b).

    The Bagley-Keene Act is silent on the time to file an action under Section 11130 (actions to stop or prevent violations or threatened violations, or to determine the application of the Act to past actions or threatened future actions). Because the relief is equitable in nature, it is advisable to file suit as soon as practicable after the violation, or after subsequent communications with state body have ceased to be productive.

    view more
  • Colorado

    As soon as possible. A party who waits too long before seeking an injunction may be subject to the equitable doctrine of laches, particularly if damages or losses are permitted to continue.

    view more
  • Connecticut

    See Records Outline at V.D.

    view more
  • Delaware

    Within 60 days of learning of the action but not later than six months after the action occurred. 29 Del. C. § 10005(a).

    view more
  • District of Columbia

    Not specifically addressed.

    view more
  • Georgia

    A suit to invalidate an official agency action must be commenced within 90 days of the date of the contested action or within 90 days from the date the contestant knew or should have known of the violation, but in no event more than 6 months after the contested action occurred.  O.C.G.A. § 50-14-1(b)(2).  See, e.g., Tisdale v. City of Cumming, 326 Ga. App. 19, 755 S.E.2d 833 (2014) (affirming trial court decision that action challenging official action was time barred).  If the contested action was a zoning decision, any action must be commenced within the time allowed by law for appeal of the decision.  § 50-14-1(b)(3). The Act contains no limitation on commencement of a suit to make minutes and past agendas available to the public. See Guthrie v. Dalton School Dist., 213 Ga. App. 849, 446 S.E.2d 526 (1994).

    view more
  • Hawaii

    Actions to void any final action taken in violation of sections 92-3 (open meetings requirement) and 92-7 (notice requirements) must be commenced within ninety days of the final action. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 92-11 (1996).

    view more
  • Idaho

    Severe time constraints are placed upon actions filed under the Open Meeting Law. Any suit seeking to declare an action null and void must be brought within 30 days of the time of violation or alleged violation of the law. Idaho Code § 74-208(6). Any other suit must be commenced within 180 days of the time of the violation or alleged violation of the law. Idaho Code § 74-208(6).

    view more
  • Illinois

    An action must be brought 60 days before or after the meeting alleged to be in violation. See 5 ILCS 120/3(a). If facts concerning the meeting are not discovered within the 60-day period, then the State’s Attorney must bring an action within 60 days of the discovery of a violation. Id.

    view more
  • Indiana

    Any lawsuit must be filed before the delivery of warrants, notes, bonds or obligations if the relief sought would have the effect of invalidating the notes, bonds or obligations; or within 30 days of the act or failure to act or the date that the plaintiff knew or should have known that the act or failure to act had occurred (whichever is later). Ind. Code § 5-14-1.5-7(b); see also see City of Jeffersonville v. Envtl. Mgmt. Corp., 954 N.E.2d 1000, 1010–11 (Ind. Ct. App. 2011) (holding that the management corporation waived its Open Door Law complaints by failing to file its complaint within the thirty day timeframe); Petit v. Indiana Alcoholic Beverage Comm’n, 511 N.E.2d 312, 316 (Ind. App. 1987) (The word “action” as used in Indiana Code Section 5-14-1.5-7 contemplates the filing of a lawsuit; objections to the failure to comply with the Open Door Law, standing alone, does not stop the thirty day timeframe for filing a complaint). If the challenged action is recorded in the memoranda or minutes of a governing body, a plaintiff is deemed to know of such act, at a minimum, as of that date. Id.

    view more
  • Iowa

    Six months if seeking to void challenged action.

    view more
  • Kansas

    KOMA contains no period of limitations. K.S.A. 60-514 is a one-year statute of limitation on actions for statutory penalties. Binding action taken in a meeting that violates the open meetings act is voidable in an action brought by district attorney or attorney general within 21 days of the meeting. K.S.A. 75-4320.

    view more
  • Kentucky

    If the suit is an appeal of an Attorney General opinion, it must be filed within 30 days of the Attorney General's opinion. See Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.846(4)(a). If the complaining party has chosen to bypass the Attorney General, the party must file suit within 60 days of receipt of the public agency's written denial. See Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.846(2).

    view more
  • Louisiana

    Not specified except suits to void actions must be brought within 60 days of such action. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 42:24. Greenmon v. City of Bossier City, 65 So.3d 1263, (La. 7/1/11); Hoffpauir v. State Dept. of Public Safety and Corrections, 762 So. 2d 1219 (La. App. 1st Cir.), writ denied, 772 So. 2d. 652 (La. 2000). (Sixty day time limit is preemptive, not prescriptive, and may not be interrupted or suspended). For obvious reasons, however, an action to enforce the Open Meeting Law should be filed as promptly as possible after an alleged violation occurs.

    view more
  • Maine

    Any person may appeal "[u]pon learning of any such action." 1 M.R.S.A. § 409(2).  A claim for violation of the open meetings act must be filed “within thirty days of discovering a possible violation.”  Palmer v. Portland Sch. Comm., 652 A.2d 86, 89 (Me. 1995).

    view more
  • Maryland

    If a violation of the notice, closed meetings, or minutes requirements is alleged, then the petition must be filed within 45 days after the date of the alleged violation. § 3-401(b)(2). If a violation of the open meetings or public attendance requirements is alleged, then the petition must be filed within 45 days after the public body includes in the minutes of its next open session the information detailing its prior closed session as required by Section 3-306(c)(2) of the Act. § 3-401(b)(3). The limitation periods are tolled by the use of the Board complaint procedures until the issuance of a written opinion by the Board. § 3-401(b)(4).

    view more
  • Michigan

    An action to invalidate a decision of a public body must be commenced within 60 days after the approved minutes are made available to the public, unless a decision involves "the approval of contracts, the receipt or acceptance of bids, the making of assessments, the procedures pertaining to the issuance of bonds or other evidences of indebtedness, or the submission of a borrowing proposal through the electors," in which case an action must be commenced within 30 days after the approved minutes are made available to the public. Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.270(3). There are no specific time limits for filing actions for injunctive relief under Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.271. An action seeking damages for intentional violation of the OMA, which may be brought under Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.273, must be commenced within 180 days after the date of the violation which gave rise to the cause of action. Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.273(2).

    view more
  • Montana

    There is no time limit on challenging a closed meeting when the petitioner seeks injunctive or prospective relief. However, if the petitioner intends to have the decision made in the closed meeting voided, that action must be brought within thirty days of the decision. Mont. Code Ann. § 2-3-213.

    view more
  • Nebraska

    Suit is time-barred if not filed within one year of meeting. Neb. Rev. Stat. §84-1414(1).

    view more
  • Nevada

    A suit to void an action taken in violation of the law must be filed within 60 days. A suit to require compliance with the law must be brought within 120 days after the action objected to was taken by the public body. NRS 241.037.

    view more
  • New Jersey

    A suit seeking access to a future meeting must be commenced before the meeting is conducted. A suit seeking to void any action taken by a public body in noncompliance with the Sunshine Law must be commenced within 45 days after the action sought to be voided has been made public. See N.J.S.A. 10:4-15.

    view more
  • New Mexico

    No reported decision, probably a four-year statute of limitations applies.  However, particularly with injunctive or other extraordinary relief, immediately filing is always advisable, and laches could be a problem for any lawsuit that is not promptly filed.

    view more
  • North Carolina

    The Open Meetings Law does not prescribe any time limit for filing a suit for injunctive relief. However, G.S. § 143-318.16A provides that a suit seeking declaratory relief and avoidance of action taken in an illegal meeting must be commenced within forty-five (45) days following the “initial disclosure” of the action that the suit seeks to have declared null and void. If the challenged action is recorded in the minutes of the public body, its “initial disclosure” is deemed to have occurred on the date the minutes are first available for public inspection; otherwise, the date of “initial disclosure” is to be determined by the court.

    view more
  • North Dakota

    An action must be commenced within sixty days of the date the person knew or should have known of the violation or within thirty days of issuance of an attorney general’s opinion on the alleged violation, whichever is later. N.D.C.C. § 44-04-21.2(1).

    view more
  • Ohio

    The statute requires that an injunction action authorized by the statute must be brought within two years after the date of the alleged violation or threatened violation. Ohio Rev. Code § 121.22(I)(1).

    The statute does not address mandamus actions or any time limit for bringing them.

    view more
  • Oklahoma

    There is no time limit specified by statute. Thus, the only applicable limit would be the statutory two-year limit for non-specifically enumerated torts. 12 O.S. § 95.

    view more
  • Oregon

    There is a 60-day time limit for filing public meetings litigation.

    view more
  • Rhode Island

    The complaint must be filed within the time limits applicable to the Attorney General.  R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-46-11. If the individual has first filed a complaint with the attorney general pursuant to this section, and the attorney general declines to take legal action, the individual may file suit in superior court within ninety (90) days of the attorney general's closing of the complaint or within one hundred eighty (180) days of the alleged violation, whichever occurs later.  R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-46-8(c)

    view more
  • South Carolina

    A suit must be filed within one year from date of the illegal act.

    view more
  • South Dakota

    There is no special limitation.

    view more
  • Tennessee

    The Act provides no time limit for filing suit; however, the six-year statute of limitations for malfeasance or nonfeasance by public officials may be applicable.

    view more
  • Texas

    There is no time limit specified in the Act for filing suit. Therefore, the four-year residual statute of limitations applies. Rivera v. City of Laredo, 948 S.W.2d 787, 793 (Tex. App.—San Antonio 1997, writ denied) (“[A]n action brought under the Open Meetings Act would fall under the four-year residual limitations period in Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 16.051 since the Act does not specify the amount of time a plaintiff has to bring an action for open meetings violations.”); Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 16.051 (West 2014) (“Every action for which there is no express limitations period, except an action for the recovery of real property, must be brought not later than four years after the day the cause of action accrues.”). The statute of limitations for mandamus actions is four years.

    view more
  • Utah

    Suits to void final action. A suit to void a final agency action taken at a closed meeting “shall be commenced within 90 days after the date of the action,” unless the final agency action concerns “issuance of bonds, notes, or other evidences of indebtedness,” in which case the suit “shall be commenced within 30 days after the date of the action.” Utah Code § 52-4-302(2), (3). A suit to void final action that is brought after these statutory periods have expired will be barred.

    Other actions. Because the 90- and 30-day limitations periods expressly govern suits to void final actions taken in closed sessions, these time periods presumably do not apply to other enforcement actions such as suits brought challenging the legality of a discussion held in closed session.

    Exhaustion of remedies. It appears that plaintiffs need not exhaust administrative remedies before filing an action in district court. Cf. id. § 63G-4-401(2) (requiring exhaustion of all administrative remedies in most cases).

    Under the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure, a defendant has 21 days to answer a complaint. Utah R. Civ. P. 12(a).

    view more
  • Vermont

    An aggrieved party must bring an action “no later than one year after the meeting at which the alleged violation occurred or to which the alleged violation relates.”  1 V.S.A. § 314(c).

    view more
  • Virginia

    Suit should be filed without unreasonable delay.

    view more
  • Washington

    There is no specific statutory requirement as to when a closed meeting must be challenged. Therefore, the normal statute of limitations of two years and the doctrine of laches probably apply.

    view more
  • West Virginia

    Circuit courts have jurisdiction to enforce the Act only if the action was commenced "within one hundred twenty days after the action complained of was taken or the decision complained of was made." W. Va. Code § 6-9A-6 (1993).

    W. Va. Code § 6-9A-6 (i) allows “any adversely affected party” to petition any court of competent jurisdiction to “invalidate any action taken at any meeting for which notice did not comply with the requirements of this section.” Although it is not clear whether the time limit established in Section 6 also applies to actions brought under Section 3, the one hundred twenty-day time limit should not apply if the petitioner was unaware of the agency's actions because of its failure to give the required notice of its meeting. W. Va. Code § 6-9A-3.

    view more
  • Wyoming

    None cited in the Act or by case law.

    view more