As part of ongoing project to create guides to each state’s public records laws, MuckRock looked at the policies governing how long an agency has to respond to a records request. While most states have clear deadlines, 11 are worryingly vague - and five don’t have any timeline at all.
- Green = Clearly-defined time limit
- Orange = “Prompt” time limit
- Red = No time limit
Some interesting takeaways - Vermont has the shortest timeframe, with two days, and Maryland has the longest, with 30. About a quarter of states skew towards three to five days, while a little over a third are seven days or longer. While states like Arizona that simply require a “prompt” response often have case law to support an appeal if an agency is being non-responsive, there’s little to stop agencies from those five outliers - 10 percent of the country - from simply ignoring your request.
If it’s a state with a formal appeals process, like New York, and you haven’t received any response from an agency by the proscribed deadline, you can appeal a “constructive denial,” with language pulled from our appeal database below:
New York Freedom of Information Law N.Y. Pub. Off. Law Ch. 47 Art. 6 § 87(b) specifically requires that an agency provide a response to a public records request within 5 business days of receipt of that request.
By failing to respond to this request within the legally-mandated timeframe, this agency is in violation of the law.
Please provide acknowledgement of this request and the responsive materials forthwith. If such materials cannot be produced, please provide an appropriate explanation for this rejection, as is dictated by this agency’s legal obligations under the New York Freedom of Information Law. Your accelerated attention to this matter will be greatly appreciated.
We also have language for dozens of other states in our database; just click “Appeal” on your rejected MuckRock request and search for constructive denial to see it for the appropriate jurisdiction.
Thanks to Allan L. Blutstein for his assistance on this piece.
Image via Universal Pictures