Kentucky, USA

Kentucky Public Records Guide

Kentucky Open Records Act (ORA)

Ky.Rev.Stat..Ann. 61.870 to .884

Enacted in 1976

Last Updated: 06/07/2024

A lot of KORA’s strength comes from the 1994 state legislature ruling that the State Archives and Records Act was inextricably linked with the Open Records Act. This meant that agencies were by law required to manage and maintain their records in accordance with the Archives and Records Act. In subsequent years, the Attorney General of Kentucky has found that agencies which have failed to create a record management and maintenance program are in direct violation of KORA. This has led to a higher degree of appeals concerning no responsive document decisions, and a precedent that agencies must document how they went about searching for the missing documents.

Factors like a five day response time, a streamlined administrative appeal option through the state AG, as well as at actual cost processing of requests for noncommercial requesters combine to make requesting in Kentucky a bit easier. The biggest hurdle in Kentucky is their residency requirement: Kentucky agencies have interpreted KORA as applying only to “residents of Kentucky.” This means that non-residents will need a local to co-file with them. Other areas the state falls a little short include:no fee waivers of any kind, no requesting the judiciary, and lackluster enforcement that requires no penalties for offending agencies.

The 19 exemptions in Kentucky are based on exemptions found federally and in many other states. A more thorough look can be found in our exemption section and resource section. (Last Updated: June 2024)

The Law

  • Five day response time
  • AG oversees admin appeals
  • Citizenship requirement

Supplemental

KY record retention schedules

KY court records

The Details

Can you submit a request if you’re not a resident?

No.

To whom does this apply?

Executive?

Yes.

Legislative?

Yes.

Judicial?

No. The Kentucky courts have found themselves to be exempt of the act due to the Kentucky constitution’s separation of powers. “[T]he custody and control of the records generated by the courts in the course of their work are inseparable from the judicial function itself, and are not subject to statutory regulation.” Id. at 624;

Who is exempted?

Any “body” that receives at least 25% of its funding from a state or local “authority” is considered a public agency to the extent of that public funding and falls under KORA. Other than judicial records and records of the state legislature (the General Assembly) and its administration arm (the Legislative Research Commission), all state and local public agencies are covered.

Is there a designated records custodian?

Generally, there is no designated records custodian in Kentucky. State law designates the city clerk as records custodian for municipalities.

How long do they have to respond?

Agencies have five days to deny or honor your request. If the requested records are “in active use, in storage, or not available, the agency can extend the deadline for disclosure but is legally obligated to immediately notify the requester in writing, provide a “detailed explanation” of the cause for delay, and make the records available on the earliest possible date certain. Failure to meet the stated date certain, or repeated and/or unreasonable extensions is appealable.

If the public record is in active use, in storage or not otherwise available, the official custodian shall immediately notify the applicant and shall designate a place, time, and date for inspection of the public records, not to exceed five (5) days from receipt of the application, unless a detailed explanation of the cause is given for further delay and the place, time, and earliest date on which the public record will be available for inspection. KRS 61.872 (5)

Does the agency have to give you a tracking number or estimated date of completion?

No.

Can they ask why you ask?

No. Agencies may ask if a request is submitted for a commercial purpose (as defined in the statute), and may request a statement of intended use if the requester answers the question affirmatively.

What enforcement?

There are no penalties for a noncompliant agency, although if the requester wins in court attorneys fees can be covered and at the discretion of the court they may be awarded $25 per day the agency was in violation of the act.

Fees?

An agency cannot charge for searching, only for copying for noncommercial requests. For noncommercial, agencies can charge at actual cost (defined as “medium and mechanical processing” costs but not including staff time. Commercial requests can have both search and copying charged for and this can be done under separate statutory cost factors that include staff time and the cost to the agency of the “creation, purchase, or acquisition” of the records. charge. The case Friend v. Rees, 696 S.W.2d 325 (Ky. Ct. App.,1985) found that 10 cents was a reasonable fee, per page, for nonexempt records in hard copy format requested for a noncommercial purpose.

Are there fee waivers for media requests or those made in the public interest?

There are no fee waivers of any kind in Kentucky.

Attorney’s fees - Can you win them?

Yes, if you prevail in your case.

Exemptions and Appeals

What exemptions exist?

There are 19 exemptions in KORA. Most of the exemptions are more or less standard with what can be seen in many other state’s FOIA laws. Certain kinds of personal information are exempted if disclosure would constitute a “clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” Other exemptions include: records compiled in an open criminal or administrative investigation if premature disclosure would harm the investigation or subsequent enforcement action; trade secrets (if certain conditions are met); preliminary drafts, notes, correspondence with private individuals and preliminary recommendations and policy formulations; certain records relating to prospective public agency real estate purchases; narrowly defined homeland security records; tests questions/scoring keys; and records made confidential by state or federal law are all exempt. Among the more unique exemptions are the withholding of records confidentially disclosed to an agency for research purposes, records that would disclose any agencies overseeing financial institutions’ internal audit criteria, and records given to an agency confidentially in order to get a grant, tax credits or a license to do business. A more thorough breakdown of these exemptions can be found in the resource section.

Do they have to tell you why a portion or pages were redacted or withheld?

Yes.

How much time do you have to appeal?

There is no set time limit other than an appeal be filed in a “reasonable” amount of time. In Dept. of Revenue v. Wyrick, 2010 Ky. LEXIS 260 at *6 (Ky. 2010) 34 days was upheld as a reasonable amount of time.

Can you appeal the courts?

Yes, you can, although a more expedient option is to administratively appeal to the state’s Attorney General. However, the Attorney General cannot enforce the decision rendered.

Resources

Organizations

Kentucky Open Government Coalition

Scripps Howard First Amendment Center

Attorneys and Law Firms

The following attorneys and law firms have practiced public records law. Names marked with an asterisk have indicated a willingness to offer pro bono services on a case by case basis.

  • Michael Abate (Kaplan, Johnson, Abate & Bird)
  • Rick Adams (Kaplan, Johnson, Abate & Bird)
  • Jeremy Rogers, (Dinsmore & Shohl)
  • Randy Strobo (Strobo Barkley)
  • Julia Taylor (Strobo Barkley)
  • Tom Miller (Miller, Griffin and Marks)

Successful appeals

  • The Kentucky Open Government Coalition has published a “Sunshine Law Library” that contains all Attorneys General open records and open meetings decisions and opinions dating back to 1977, applicable statutes, judicial opinions, and analysis in a searchable format. Additional features include the ability to confirm whether the research results are still “good law” or have been reversed by the courts, statutory amendment, or subsequent Attorneys General analysis.
  • The Attorney General’s Open Records Decisions are posted online and searchable. In the search field, include “ORD” to return the decisions, along with any keywords.

News Stories on Public Records Laws in the State

AG rules against Univ. of Kentucky

Blogs and feeds primarily focused on public records in Kentucky

Kentucky Open Government Coalition

Public Records Guide and Advice

Newsletters

Let us know

Big FOIA wins

Have a public records success story? Let us know!

Stats

Requests
Filed811
Completed261
Rejected93
No Responsive Documents186
Awaiting Acknowledgement47
Awaiting Response23
Requiring Action119
Overdue67
Appeals
Appeals awaiting response2
Allowed Response Time
5 days
Average Response Time
74 days
Success Rate
29.35%
Average Fee
$75.52
3.08% of requests have a fee

Top Agencies See All

Agency Requests
Louisville Metro Police 82
Kentucky State Police 73
Office of the Attorney General - Kentucky 47
Department of Corrections 38
Office of the Governor of Kentucky 33
Louisville Metro Police Department 31
Jefferson County Sheriff 24
Mckee Kentucky Sheriff's Department 23
Lexington Division of Police 22
Cabinet for Health and Family Services 20

Top Localities See All

Jurisdiction Requests
Louisville, KY 136
Louisville-Jefferson County, KY 75
Lexington, KY 32
Jackson County, KY 32
Frankfort, KY 23
Boone County, KY 10
Rowan County, KY 5
Elizabethtown, KY 5
Highland Heights, KY 5
Pulaski County, KY 5