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E. Who enforces the Act?


  • Alaska

    There is no provision in the act for the Department of Law or any other state entity to enforce the public's right of access to records. The state ombudsman, and municipal or agency counterparts, can be helpful in pursuing disputed documents. In general, requesters are on their own to pursue access to public records.

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  • Arizona

    (This section is blank. See the subpoints below.)

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  • Arkansas

    (This section is blank. See the subpoints below.)

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  • California

    Under Section 7923.000 of the CPRA, "[a]ny person may institute proceedings for injunctive or declaratory relief or writ of mandate in any court of competent jurisdiction to enforce his or her right to inspect or to receive a copy of any public record or class of public records under this chapter." Cal. Gov't Code § 7923.000. The plain meaning of this provision "contemplates a declaratory relief proceeding commenced only by an individual or entity seeking disclosure of public records, and not by the public agency from which disclosure is sought." Filarsky v. Superior Court, 28 Cal. 4th 419, 426, 121 Cal. Rptr. 2d 844, 49 P.3d 194 (2002) (city may not initiate ordinary declaratory relief action to determine its obligation to disclose records to a member of the public as CPRA provides exclusive means for litigating question of whether records must be disclosed).

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  • Connecticut

    (This section is blank. See the subpoints below.)

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  • District of Columbia

    All employees of the District government are responsible for compliance with the provisions of the D.C. Act. D.C. Code Ann. § 2-537(e). Each public body also must designate a Freedom of Information Officer who is to receive a minimum of 8 hours of training regarding implementation and compliance with the D.C. Act. § 2-538(d). Each year, the Mayor requests from each public body and submits to the D.C. Council a report covering the public record disclosure activities of each public body during the preceding fiscal year. Id. § 2-538(a).

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  • Hawaii

    The UIPA requires government agencies to promulgate rules and regulations to implement the law. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 92F-18. Its passage also funded the Office of Information Practice (OIP), which is currently a division of the Lieutenant Governor's Office. Id. § 92F-41 (Supp. 1999). Effective July 1, 2016, however, the OIP will permanently become a division of the Department of Accounting and General Services for administrative purposes. OIP, Bills Passed by Legislature, OIP Newsletter, May 7, 2015.

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  • Idaho

    The act provides that the "sole remedy for a person aggrieved by the denial of a request for disclosure is to institute proceedings in the district court of the county where the records or some part thereof are located.” Idaho Code § 74-115(1). Thus, the act is enforced through private enforcement.

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  • Indiana

    Violations of the Access to Public Records Act are enforced in the courts.

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  • Kentucky

    Aside from any individual agency internal policy, the Kentucky Attorney General and the Circuit Courts enforce the Kentucky Open Records Act via an appeals process that becomes available when an agency denies a records request or the public agency circumvents the purpose of the Act. See Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.880, 61.882.

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  • Maine

    The Attorney General or any District Attorney may enforce the Act, as well as any private requester of records.  A willful violation of the Act is subject to a $500 fine, which may only be sought by the State.  1 M.R.S.A. § 410.

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  • Maryland

    Section 4-362(a) authorizes any person or governmental unit that has been denied inspection of a public record to file a complaint in the circuit court for the county where the complainant resides or has a principal place of business, or where the public record is located. The circuit court may enjoin the State, a political subdivision, or a unit, an official, or an employee of the State or a political subdivision from withholding the public record or a copy, printout or photograph of the record; order the production of the withheld record or copy, printout or photograph, and award actual damages including attorneys' fees to the complainant if the Court finds that the complainant substantially prevailed in the suit seeking enforcement of the Act. § 4-362(c), (f); but see ACLU v. Leopold, 223 Md. App. 97, 123 (2015) ("actual damages" under the statute does not include emotional damages).

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  • Massachusetts

    The Supervisor of Public Records may order a custodian to comply with a person's request or to reduce its fee, but the Supervisor has no enforcement power. If the custodian refuses to comply, all the Supervisor can do is issue a public opinion and notify the Attorney General or appropriate District Attorney. G.L. c. 66, § 10(b), 950 CMR 32.09. Alternatively, if the requester chooses to take the time and expense of going to court, and if the requester prevails, then the Superior Court or Supreme Judicial Court can order compliance. G.L. c. 66, § 10(b). But the prevailing plaintiff will not be able to recover attorney fees or sanctions.

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  • Michigan

    The requesting person is the only party which may bring an action under the FOIA. See Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.240(1)(b) (the requesting party may commence an action in the circuit court to compel the public body's disclosure of the public records within 180 days after a public body's final determination to deny a request).

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  • Minnesota

    A party aggrieved by a decision not to allow access to data may ask the Commissioner of Administration to issue an opinion with respect to the nature of the data sought. Minn. Stat.§ 13.072, subd. 1(a). The opinions are not binding on a public agency, but must be given deference by a court in a proceeding regarding the data. Minn. Stat.§ 13.072, subd. 2. An aggrieved party may also seek a hearing with the Office of Administrative Hearings. Minn. Stat. § 13.085.

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  • Mississippi

    The act may be enforced either through the Mississippi Ethics Commission or through a lawsuit filed in chancery court.

    In seeking relief through the Mississippi Ethics Commission, a complaint form is available at:$FILE/Public%20Records%20Complaint%20Form.pdf?OpenElement

    In court, suit must be filed in the chancery court of the county in which the public body sits. § 25-61-13(1). Proceedings take precedence over all other matters on the court docket. § 25-61-13(3).

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  • Missouri

    Any aggrieved person, any Missouri taxpayer or citizen, the Attorney General or prosecuting attorney may seek judicial enforcement of the Sunshine Law. Mo.Rev.Stat. § 610.027.1.

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  • Montana

    There is no specific provision for enforcement under the act, and most provisions are enforced through citizen-initiated lawsuits.

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  • Nebraska

    The public records statutes can be enforced by a lawsuit brought by a dissatisfied requester or by the Attorney general. Neb. Rev. Stat. §84-712.03.

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  • Nevada

    The requester can apply to the district court in the county in which the book or record is located for an order compelling the disclosure of the records.

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  • New Hampshire

    Any “person” or legal entity, such as a news organization, has the right to enforce the Statute.

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  • New Jersey

    A person who is denied access to a government record, at the option of the requestor, may institute a proceeding to challenge the custodian's decision by filing an action in Superior Court or file a complaint with the Government Records Council established pursuant to OPRA.

    (See N.J.S.A. 47:1A-6)

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  • New York

    Threshold compliance with FOIL’s requirements is largely committed to an agency’s internal decision-making with respect to the disclosure of records. In cases where an agency does not comply with FOIL’s requirements and refuses to disclose non-exempt information, the New York State Committee on Open Government can be contacted to perform an important ombudsman’s role (see discussion below). If a FOIL request is denied by an agency, and an administrative appeal to the agency results in upholding the denial, the requester has the option of commencing legal action (known as an Article 78 proceeding) against the agency in which a New York State Supreme Court judge will decide the merits of the disclosure issue under FOIL. Many such legal cases are brought by news organizations as surrogates for the public.

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  • North Carolina

    North Carolina’s Public Records Law is enforced almost exclusively through civil suits instituted by private citizens or media organizations. The media has no greater right of access than citizens.

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  • Ohio

    Only a person aggrieved by a public office's failure to produce requested records can sue. The appropriate mechanism for compelling compliance with the act is either by (1) an action in mandamus in the court of common pleas, court of appeals, or Ohio Supreme Court Ohio Rev. Code §§ 149.43(C)(1), or (2) filing a complaint in the Court of Claims, Ohio Rev. Code § 2743.75(C)(1).

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  • Pennsylvania

    The Law mandates the creation of an Office of Open Records in the Department of Community and Economic Development. Section 1310(a). The Office is led by an executive director who is appointed by the governor for a term of six years (with a maximum of two terms) and who may appoint attorneys to act as appeals officers as well as other staff as appropriate. 65 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 67.1310(b).

    The Office of Open Records has the following responsibilities:

    • Provide information relating to the implementation and enforcement of the act.
    • Issue advisory opinions to agencies and requesters.
    • Provide annual training to agencies, public officials and public employees.
    • Provide annual, regional training courses to local agencies, public officials and public employees.
    • Assign appeals officers to review appeals of decisions by commonwealth and local agencies, and issue orders and opinions. The Office must retain attorneys to serve as appeals officers and review appeals and, if necessary, hold hearings on a regional basis.
    • Establish an informal mediation program to resolve disputes under the act.
    • Establish an Internet website with information relating to the act, including information on fees, advisory opinions and the name and address of all open records officers in the Commonwealth.
    • Conduct a biannual review of fees charged under the act.
    • Annually report on “its activities and findings” to the Governor and General Assembly. This report shall be “posted and maintained” on the Office’s website.

    65 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 67.1310(a)(1)-(9).

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  • Rhode Island

    The Act is enforced by the Attorney General or by a private party through an action for injunctive or declaratory relief in the superior court of the county where the record is maintained. R.I. Gen. Laws §  38-2-8; Rhode Island Federation of Teachers v. Sundlun, 595 A.2d 799 (R.I. 1991)

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  • South Carolina

    South Carolina in practice relies on private, civil enforcement in suits seeking declaratory judgments and injunctive relief. S.C. Code Ann. § 30-4-100. Prior to revisions to SC FOIA in 2017, criminal prosecution were provided for in the Act, with only one prosecution under the Act taking place and resulting in a not guilty verdicts for the commissioners of a fire district in 2011. S.C. Code Ann. § 30-4-110.

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  • South Dakota

    Enforcement can be either civil or criminal. The civil options are a lawsuit or administrative hearing with appeal to circuit court. SDCL §1-27-38. Although the open records statutes do not provide any specific criminal sanctions, the criminal code, itself, makes it a felony to destroy, conceal, remove or impair the availability of any public record. SDCL §22-1-24. Therefore, it is logical to conclude that the local states attorneys would/should enforce the act. However, there are no recorded cases of prosecutions for open records violations.

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  • Tennessee

    Individual citizens.

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  • Texas

    A requestor or the Attorney General may file suit for a writ of mandamus compelling a governmental body to make information available for public inspection if the governmental body refuses to request an Attorney General's decision or refuses to supply public information that the Attorney General has determined is public information and not excepted under the Act. Tex. Gov’t Code § 552.321. "[A] trial court has the authority to grant mandamus relief when an agency refuses to timely request an attorney general opinion, when the agency refuses to supply public information in accordance with the [Act], and also when the agency fails to timely notify the requestor of its decision to seek an attorney general opinion." Simmons v. Kuzmich, 166 S.W.3d 342, 348 (Tex. App.—Fort Worth 2005, no pet.).

    “A requestor may bring a mandamus action regardless of whether an attorney general’s opinion has been requested or despite the issuance of an adverse attorney general’s opinion that favors the withholding of the information.”  Thomas v. Cornyn, 71 S.W.3d 473, 483 (Tex. App.—Austin 2002, no pet.); see also Tex. Dep’t of Pub. Safety v. Gilbreath, 842 S.W.2d 408, 411 (Tex. App.—Austin 1992, no writ).

    Section 552.3215(e) further provides that a complainant may file a complaint with the district or county attorney where the relevant governmental body is located. The district or county attorney must then determine whether the governmental body violated the Act and whether to pursue the matter. Tex. Gov’t Code § 552.3215(g).

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  • Vermont

    The State appears to rely on the press and private citizens for enforcement of the Public Records Act under 1 V.S.A. § 319(a). To date, there have been no enforcement actions brought by the Vermont Attorney General’s Office.  There is no state ombudsman, however, the Vermont Legislature recently considered a measure that would create an independent ombudsman position that would be charged with reviewing records that have been blocked from release to determine whether state agencies are adequately protecting the public’s right to know.

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  • Virginia

    Any person, including the attorney for the Commonwealth (in Virginia this is the local prosecutor) acting in his official or individual capacity, denied the rights and privileges conferred by the Act may proceed to enforce such rights and privileges by filing a petition for mandamus or injunction. Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-3713.A.

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  • Washington

    The Public Records Act is generally enforced through private litigation. Any person who has been refused to allow inspection or copying of public records may demand judicial review through a civil lawsuit. RCW 42.56.550. Likewise, any person who believes that an agency has not provided a reasonable estimate of time that the agency requires to respond to a public records request may seek judicial review. Id. Alternatively, if a state agency denies a person an opportunity to inspect or copy a public record, the individual may request the attorney general’s office to review the matter and provide a written opinion. RCW 42.56.530. Such opinions are not binding on the agency, but may be persuasive.

    An agency, or a third party named in or referred to in a record, is entitled to seek a court order enjoining the inspection of a public record. RCW 42.56.540; Dawson v. Daly, 120 Wn.2d 782, 845 P.2d 995 (1993). To obtain such an order, the agency or third party must establish not only that a specific exemption applies, but also that disclosure (1) clearly would not be in the public interest, and (2) would substantially and irreparably damage a person or a vital government interest. RCW 42.56.540; Lyft, Inc. v. City of Seattle, 190 Wn.2d 769, 773, 418 P.3d 102, 104 (2018).

    An agency, or a third party named in or referred to in a record, is entitled to seek a court order enjoining the inspection of a public record. RCW 42.56.540. Dawson v. Daly, 120 Wn.2d 782, 845 P.2d 995 (1993).

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  • West Virginia

    Citizen lawsuits are recognized as the mechanism by which the West Virginia Freedom of Information Act is enforced. W. Va. Code § 29B-1-5(1) provides that "[a]ny person denied the right to inspect the public record of a public body may institute proceedings for injunctive or declaratory relief in the circuit court in the county where the public record is kept."

    Furthermore, W. Va. Code § 29B-1-5(2) provides that:

    [I]n any suit filed under subsection one of this section, the court has jurisdiction to enjoin the custodian or public body from withholding records and to order the production of any records improperly withheld from the person seeking disclosure. The court shall determine the matter de novo and the burden is on the public body to sustain its action. The court, on its own motion, may view the documents in controversy in camera before reaching a decision. Any custodian of any public records of the public body found to be in noncompliance with the order of the court to produce the documents or disclose the information sought may be punished as being in contempt of court.

    The West Virginia Open Governmental Proceedings Act is also enforceable through civil lawsuits filed by citizens. See W. Va. Code §§ 6-9A-3 ("[u]pon petition of any adversely affected party") and 6-9A-6 ("any citizen").

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  • Wyoming

    The District Court where the records are found.  A person denied access may seek a written explanation setting forth the reasons and legal authority for the denial. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-203(e).  The requester then may petition the district court for an order requiring the custodian to show cause why the records should not be released. W.S. §16-4-203(f).

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