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c. Court


  • Alabama

    The procedures for filing suit to challenge closure of past meetings are discussed above and below.

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  • Alaska

    A court suit concerning open meetings law violations is begun the same as any court suit, by filing a complaint and paying the $250 filing fee. There is no provision in court rules for simply running in to a judge to get a ruling on opening a particular meeting without filing a complaint and naming the appropriate people as defendants and serving summons on them. (Note, however, that expedited preliminary proceedings usually occur before the complaint and summons(es) are served on the defendant(s) and before an answer is filed.)

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  • Arizona

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

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  • Arkansas

    If a state agency is involved, an FOIA suit must be brought in Pulaski County circuit court or the circuit court of the judicial district in which the plaintiff resides. If any other government body or a private entity is involved, venue is proper only in the circuit court of the district in which the entity is located. Ark. Code Ann. § 25-19-107(a); ACORN v. Jackson, 263 Ark. 67, 562 S.W.2d 589 (1978).

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  • California

    Under both Acts, any person may commence an action in court to stop or to prevent violations or threatened violations of the open meeting laws, to determine the applicability of the Acts to past actions or threatened future actions by the state body or the legislative body of a local agency, to determine whether any rule or action by the state body or legislative body of the local agency to penalize or discourage the expression of its members is legal, or to compel the state body or legislative body of the local agency to tape record its closed sessions. Cal. Gov't Code §§ 11130, 11130.3(a) (Bagley-Keene Act), 54960(a), 54960.2 (Brown Act).

    Under the Brown Act, a predicate to an action to determine the application of the Act to any past action is a timely cease and desist letter. Cal. Gov’t Code § 54960.2. See, e.g., TransparentGov Novato v. City of Novato, 34 Cal. App. 5th 140, 153, 246 Cal. Rptr. 3d 17 (April 10, 2019) (upholding trial court’s denial of petition for writ of mandate or declaratory relief were city responded to cease and desist letter with “‘an unconditional commitment to cease, desist from, and not repeat the [allegedly wrongful] past action.’” (quoting Cal. Gov’t Code § 54960.2(c)(1)&(3)).

    Additionally, mandamus or injunctive relief is available to declare as null and void action taken in violation of the Brown Act, Sections 54953 (open and public meetings), 54954.2 (posting of agenda), 54954.5 (description requirements for closed sessions), 54954.6 (public meeting in general tax or assessment of notice thereof), 54956 (special meetings and notice thereof), or 54956.5 (emergency meeting rules). Cal. Gov't Code § 54960.1(a). A predicate to such action under the Brown Act is a timely demand to cure or correct the violation. Cal. Gov’t Code § 54960.1(b).

    Similarly, mandamus or injunctive relief is available to declare as null and void an action in violation of the Bagley-Keene Act, Sections 11123 (open meetings) and 11125 (notice of meetings). There is no requirement to serve a cure and correct demand letter in advance of suit under the Bagley-Keene Act. Under both Acts, the court will not invalidate any action: (1) taken in substantial compliance with its provisions (2) taken in connection with the sale or issuance of bonds, (3) giving rise to a contract that a party has relied on in good faith,  or (4) taken in connection with the collection of any tax. Cal. Gov't Code §§ 11130.3(b) (Bagley-Keene Act), 54960.1(d) (Brown Act). Additionally, under the Brown Act, an action cannot be invalidated for noncompliance with subdivision (a) of Section 54954.2, Section 54956, or Section 54956.5, because of any defect in the notice if the person had actual notice of the item of business at least 72 hours prior to the meeting, if the meeting was noticed pursuant to Section 54954.2, or 24 hours prior to the meeting at which the action was taken if the meeting was noticed pursuant to Section 54956, or prior to the meeting at which the action was taken if the meeting is held pursuant to Section 54956.5. Cal. Gov’t Code § 54960.1(d)(5). 

    Several courts have discussed the substantial compliance predicate to nullifying action taken. See, e.g., Regents of Univ. of Cal. v. Superior Court, 20 Cal. 4th 509, 527, 85 Cal. Rptr. 2d 257, 976 P.2d 808 (1999) (Regents held in substantial compliance with notice provisions); Olson v. Hornbrook Cmty. Servs. Dist., 33 Cal. App. 5th 502, 520, 245 Cal.  Rptr. 3d 236 (March 26, 2019) (holding agenda that communicated essential nature of board action, which was to discuss and approve payment to third party but which listed incorrect payment amount, was in substantial compliance with Brown Act notice requirements and thus could not form basis of action to nullify board action); cf. id. at 521 (holding agenda item that provided specific and exhaustive list of payments to be approved but excluded some did not give sufficient notice to those interested in payments and thus was sufficient to state action to nullify board action); Castaic Lake Water Agency v. Newhall Cty. Water Dist., 238 Cal. App. 4th 1196, 1207, 190 Cal. Rtpr. 3d 151 (2015) (description of closed agenda item that cited wrong provision authorizing closed session to confer with counsel over litigation was held to be in substantial compliance with Brown Act); N. Pacific LLC v. Cal. Coastal Comm’n, 166 Cal. App. 4th 1416, 1431-32, 83 Cal. Rptr. 3d 636 (2008) (holding commission in substantial compliance with notice provisions and stating “state actions in violation of [the notice] requirements should not be nullified, so long as the state agency’s reasonably effective efforts to notify interested persons of a public meeting serve the statutory objectives of ensuring that state actions taken and deliberations made at such meetings are open to the public.”); but see G.I. Industries v. Cty. of Thousand Oaks, 84 Cal. App. 5th 814, 823, 300 Cal. Rptr. 3d 695 (2022) (reversing demurrer in favor of city council where sufficient facts were alleged that city council violated Section 54954.2 by voting to adopt a CEQA exemption to a proposed solid waste franchise agreement without including CEQA exemptions as an item on the agenda at least 72 hours prior to meeting, and noting that such facts, if proven, would warrant a declaration voiding action taken on the exemption); San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Ctr. v. Cty. of Merced, 216 Cal. App. 4th 1167, 1177, 157 Cal. Rptr. 3d 458 (2013) (failure to separately disclose consideration of a mitigating negative declaration concerning an environmental project noticed for approval on the agenda held to violate Brown Act).

    Substantial compliance with the Act’s notice provisions, however, does not necessarily defeat an action under Section 54960 of the Brown Act or Section 11130 of the Bagley-Keene Act. See Olson, 33 Cal. App. 5th at 525 (discussing various standards and holding that agency’s substantial compliance with Brown Act’s notice provisions does not bar a plaintiff from recovery under Section 54960).

    Additionally, even when technical violations of the Acts are shown, action will not be invalidated absent a showing of prejudice. Fowler v. City of Lafayette, 46 Cal. App. 5th 360, 372, 46 Cal. App. 5th 360 (2020); Olson., 33 Cal. App. 5th at 517; Galbiso v. Orosi Pub. Util. Dist., 182 Cal. App. 4th 652, 670-71, 107 Cal. Rptr. 3d 36 (2010); San Lorenzo Valley Cmty. Advocates for Responsible Educ. v. San Lorenzo Valley Unified Sch. Dist., 139 Cal. App. 4th 1356, 1410, 44 Cal. Rptr. 3d 128 (2006); Cohan v. City of Thousand Oaks, 30 Cal. App. 4th 547, 555-56, 35 Cal. Rptr. 2d 782 (1994). At the pleading stage, however, a few cases have held that prejudice is not necessary to state a cause of action under Section 54969.1. See Olsen, 33 Cal. App. 5th at 522; New Livable California v. Ass’n of Bay Area Governments, 59 Cal. App. 5th 709, 715, 273 Cal. Rptr. 3d 688 (2020).

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  • Colorado

    Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-6-402(9) provides that upon the application of "any citizen" of the State of Colorado, an injunction may be issued by any court of record to enforce the purposes of the Sunshine Law. See Bagby v. School District No. 1, 186 Colo. 428, 528 P.2d 1299 (1974).

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  • Connecticut

    An individual denied access to a meeting may appeal to the Superior Court following an adverse ruling by the FOIC.

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  • Delaware

    The meetings portion of the Act contemplates an action in the Court of Chancery. 29 Del. C. § 10005(a).

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  • District of Columbia

    The Office of Open Government must file any enforcement lawsuits in D.C. Superior Court.  D.C. Code Ann. § 2-579(a).

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  • Georgia

    Georgia superior courts have jurisdiction to enforce the Act’s requirements. O.C.G.A. § 50-14-5(a).

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  • Hawaii

    The state circuit courts have jurisdiction to enforce the Sunshine Law by injunction or other appropriate remedy. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 92-12(b). Suits should be commenced in the circuit court of the circuit in which the prohibited act occurred. Id. § 92-12(c).

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  • Idaho

    Any person affected by a violation of the provisions of the Open Meetings Law may commence a civil action in the magistrate division of the district court of the county in which the public agency ordinarily meets, for the purpose of requiring compliance with provisions of the Open Meetings Law. Idaho Code § 74-208(6).

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  • Illinois

    Redress is sought directly in circuit court.

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  • Indiana

    The statute permits lawsuits to be filed in any court of competent jurisdiction in the state. Ind. Code § 15-14-1.5-7(a). There are no administrative remedies to be exhausted. Indeed, the statute explicitly provides that a person or public agency is not required to file a complaint with the Public Access Counselor before seeking judicial remedy. Ind. Code § 5-14-5-4. However, it is advisable to make either a formal complaint or informal inquiry with the counselor, as failure to do so bars collection of attorney fees, with narrow exceptions. Ind. Code § 5-14-1.5-7(f); see Gary/Chicago Airport Bd. of Auth. v. Maclin, 772 N.E.2d 463, 471–72 (Ind. App. 2002) (upholding grant of attorney fees after filing of formal complaint to the Public Access Counselor); Hinojosa v. Hammond Bd. of Pub. Works & Safety, 789 N.E.2d 533, 548–49 (Ind. App. 2003) (because appellant’s suit against the government was necessary to prevent current and further violations of the Indiana Open Door Law, award of attorney fees to appellant under IC 5-14-1.5-7(f) was proper, despite appellant’s failure to obtain an advisory opinion from the public access counselor prior to filing for relief).

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  • Iowa

    In the district court for the county in which the governmental body has its principal place of business. Iowa Code § 21.6(1).

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  • Kansas

    In a lawsuit brought by a private plaintiff, jurisdiction to enforce the purposes of the KOMA is vested in the district court in the county in which the meeting was held. K.S.A. 75-4320a(a).  “Except as otherwise provided by law, proceedings arising under this section shall take precedence over all other cases and shall be assigned for hearing and trial at the earliest practicable date.”  K.S.A. 75-4320a(f).  “[T]he burden of proof shall be on the public body or agency to sustain its action.”  K.S.A. 75-4320a(b).  Court costs, but not attorney fees, are to be awarded to the plaintiff “if the court finds that the provisions of those statutes were violated.”  K.S.A. 75-4320a(c).  Meanwhile, “the court may award to the defendant court costs if the court finds that the plaintiff maintained the action frivolously, not in good faith or without a reasonable basis in fact or law.”  K.S.A. 75-4320a(d).  Attorney fees are only awarded in actions brought by the county or district attorney, or the attorney general.  See K.S.A. 75-4320a(e).

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  • Kentucky

    The complaining party or the agency has 30 days after the Attorney General renders his or her decision to appeal the decision. Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.846(4)(a). If not timely appealed, the Attorney General's decision "shall have the force and effect of law and shall be enforceable in the Circuit Court of the county where the public agency has its principal place of business or where the alleged violation occurred." Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.846(4)(b).

    A complaining party has the option of bypassing the Attorney General and bringing an original action in Circuit Court. A party may not, however, simultaneously seek the Attorney General's review of a complaint while pursuing an action in Circuit Court. In such a case, the Attorney General will refuse to issue an opinion. See 93-OMD-81 ("a person cannot seek relief from this office under Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.846 when the same and additional questions are currently pending before a circuit court").

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  • Louisiana

    Court review is available but there are no administrative remedies.

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  • Maine

    An action must be brought in Superior Court, generally in the county where the meeting was held.

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  • Maryland

    The Act specifically provides for a petition to be filed with the circuit court by a person adversely affected by a public body's failure to comply with the Act. § 3-401(b). A party need not exhaust administrative remedies before bringing its complaint. Suburban Hospital Inc. v. Maryland Health Resources Planning Comm'n., 125 Md. App. 579, 600, 726 A.2d 807, 817, n.8 (1999).

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  • Massachusetts

    When access is denied, filing an action in Superior Court is appropriate. Alternatively, you can file an administrative complaint with the public body, as set forth above. G.L. c. 30A, § 23(b), (f).

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  • Minnesota

    An action in state district court where the administrative body is located is the only forum available to challenge closure decisions. Minn. Stat. § 13D.06, subd. 2.

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  • Mississippi

    The Mississippi Ethics Commission has the authority to enforce provisions of the Open Meetings Law. § 25-41-15. An appeal of the Ethics Commission determination may be made to the chancery court of the county in which the public body is located. A suit to challenge a denial of access may also be filed in chancery court.

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  • Missouri

    The Sunshine Law specifically allows for a court challenge. Mo.Rev.Stat. §§ 610.027 and 610.030.

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  • Nebraska

    "Any citizen of this state" may sue in district court in the county in which the public body meets to seek compliance with Open Meetings Act. Neb. Rev. Stat. §84-1414(3).

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  • Nevada

    Any person or the Attorney General may file suit to have an action taken by a public body declared void or to require compliance with the OML. NRS 241.037.

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  • New Hampshire

    The Statute provides that a person "aggrieved by a violation of this chapter may petition the Superior Court for injunctive [or other] relief. RSA 91-A:7.

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  • New Mexico

    Any person may enforce the purpose of the Open Meetings Act by injunction or mandamus or other appropriate order by suit in the District Court.  NMSA 1978 § 10-15-3(C).

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  • New York

    The statutory remedy for persons alleging a violation of the OML is commencement of an Article 78 proceeding or action for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief. N.Y. Pub. Off. Law § 107(1) (McKinney 1988).

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  • North Carolina

    G.S. § 143-318.16 provides that a court in either division of the General Court of Justice has jurisdiction to enter mandatory or prohibitory injunctions to enjoin threatened, recurring, or continuing violations of the Open Meetings Law. Thus, suits seeking injunctive relief may be filed in District Court or in Superior Court.
    G.S. § 143-318.16A, which was added to the Open Meetings Law by the General Assembly in 1985, provides that a suit seeking a declaratory judgment under the Open Meetings Law must be filed in Superior Court. In view of the likelihood that suits brought pursuant to the Open Meetings Law are likely to seek both an injunction and a declaratory judgment, suits brought to enforce the Open Meetings Law generally will be filed in Superior Court.
    Suits arising out of Open Meetings Law violations by local public bodies, such as city councils, school boards, and boards of county commissioners, should be filed in the county in which the public body conducts its business and exercises its jurisdiction. Most suits arising out of violations by state bodies should be filed in the Superior Court of Wake County, where such bodies generally conduct their business.

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  • North Dakota

    North Dakota law also provides for court action, as discussed below.

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  • Ohio

    The enforcement of the duties imposed upon public bodies by the statute is through judicial remedies. Those remedies are:

    • Injunction. Ohio Rev. Code § 121.22(I)(1).
    • Mandamus. State ex rel. Inskeep v. Staten, 74 Ohio St.3d 676, 660 N.E.2d 1207 (1996). State ex rel. The Fairfield Leader v. Ricketts, 56 Ohio St. 3d 97, 564 N.E.2d 486 (1990).
    • Invalidation of action taken in or resulting from a session closed in violation of the statute. Ohio Rev. Code § 121.22(H).
    • A member of a public body who knowingly violates an injunction to obey the statute may be removed from office by an action brought by a prosecuting authority or the attorney general. Ohio Rev. Code § 121.22(I)(4).
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  • Oklahoma

    The Oklahoma Open Meeting Act confers a private right of action on the part of any member of the general public who claims to be aggrieved by the actions of a public body. Rabin v. Bartlesville Redevelopment Trust Authority, 2013 OK CIV APP 72. Such actions would be brought before the District Court.

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  • Oregon

    A challenge must be brought in circuit court. ORS 192.680.

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  • Pennsylvania

    In cases involving state agencies, the Commonwealth Court has original jurisdiction of legal challenges. See Property Owners v. Dep’t of Cmty. Affairs, 552 A.2d 769 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 1989) (deciding that the Department of Community Affairs did not have jurisdiction to determine whether the Sunshine Act had been violated). In all other cases, the various Courts of Common Pleas have original jurisdiction. See, e.g., Patriot-News Co. v. Empowerment Team of the Harrisburg Sch. Dist., 763 A.2d 539 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2000) (appeals of decisions of local school districts properly in local court of common pleas); see also O’Hare v. Cty. of Northhampton, 782 A.2d 7 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2001) (Sunshine Act vests the Courts of Common Pleas with original jurisdiction over matters arising under the Act).

    The action may be brought by “any person” where the agency whose act is complained of is located, or where the unwarranted closure occurred. There is no requirement that administrative remedies be exhausted, or that a formal or informal protest or request for openness be made to the agency before court proceedings are begun.

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  • Rhode Island

    Persons aggrieved as a result of violations of the OML may file a complaint in the Superior Court.  R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-46-8(c).

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  • South Carolina

    A suit may be filed in the Court of Common Pleas seeking a declaratory judgment that the law has been violated and injunctive relief. S.C. Code Ann. § 30-4-100.

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  • South Dakota

    The South Dakota Supreme Court and circuit courts have concurrent jurisdiction in mandamus, prohibition or injunction actions. In addition, depending on the circumstances, a declaratory judgment action may be appropriate.

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  • Texas

    A party can file suit in the applicable district court or county court and include with it an application for an injunction.  See Tex. Gov’t Code § 551.142. A party can also make an application for a writ of mandamus and file it in the appropriate appellate court, including a court of appeals or the Supreme Court of Texas.  Tex. R. App. P. 52.1.

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  • Utah

    Any person denied access to a meeting in violation of the Open Meetings Act may commence suit “to compel compliance with or enjoin violations of this chapter” or to “determine the chapter’s applicability to discussions or decisions of a public body.” Utah Code § 52-4-303(3).

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  • Vermont

    “[T]he Attorney General or any person aggrieved by a violation of the provisions of this subchapter may bring an action in the Civil Division of the Superior Court in the county in which the violation has taken place for appropriate injunctive relief or for a declaratory judgment.”  1 V.S.A. § 314(c).

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  • Virginia

    Suits brought to enforce the provisions of this Act shall be filed in the general district court or the circuit court of the county or city from which a local public body has been elected or appointed and in which the denial of rights occurred. Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-3713.A.1.  Suits against regional public bodies are brought in the general district court or circuit court in which the body’s principal place of business is located. Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-3713.A.2.  Suits against state instrumentalities may be brought in the general district court or circuit court at the place of the aggrieved party's residence or in the City of Richmond.  Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-3713.A.3.

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  • West Virginia

    The only statutory procedure for asserting a right of access under the Open Meetings Act is a petition filed in circuit court pursuant to W. Va. Code §§ 6-9A-3 and 6. It is also possible that one may assert a right of access in a common law mandamus or prohibition proceeding.

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  • Wyoming

    Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-203 directs a person denied access to records to apply to the district court of the district where the record is found. Presumably, one seeking access would apply to the district court of the district where the meeting took place.

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