I. STATUTE -- BASIC APPLICATION

The Tennessee open records law (the "Act") provides for a Tennessee citizen's personal inspection of all state, county and municipal records, and of all records maintained by the Tennessee Performing Arts Center management corporation at all times during business hours unless the records are statutorily declared to be confidential. A public record is defined as follows:

"Public record(s)" or "state record(s)" means all documents, papers, letters, maps, books, photographs, microfilms, electronic data processing files and output, films, sound recordings or other material regardless of physical form or characteristics made or received pursuant to law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business by any governmental agency.

T.C.A. § 10-7-301(6), See also T.C.A. § 10-7-403 (defining "Public records within the county"). The determination of whether a document has been received "in connection with the transaction of official business" requires an examination of the totality of the circumstances. Griffin v. City of Knoxville, 821 S.W.2d 921, 924 (Tenn. 1991) (suicide notes taken into police custody are public records). Tennessee courts have had occasion to determine that certain records claimed to be exempt were in fact intended to be open: applications of those seeking the position of school superintendent, Board of Education of Memphis City Schools v. Memphis Publishing Co., 585 S.W.2d 629 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1979); payroll records of a public hospital, Cleveland Newspapers Inc. v. Bradley County Memorial Hospital Board of Directors, 621 S.W.2d 763 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1981); and closed investigative files of a police department, Memphis Publishing Co. v. Holt, 710 S.W.2d 513 (Tenn. 1986). Thirty-three categories of exceptions to the mandate of openness are contained in the Act itself under the rubric of "confidential records." T.C.A. § 10-7-504. The legislature has enacted numerous other statutes providing that certain records be deemed confidential or closed.  A 1987 survey by a special committee of the Tennessee General Assembly found that 80 other statutes either limiting or barring public access to various public records have accrued over the past 30 years since the enactment of the Public Records Act. Since that time, the General Assembly has enacted additional exemptions.  There now appears to be approximately 352 exceptions to the Act. See Appendix for list of Exemptions.