Maine, USA

Maine Public Records Guide

Overview

  • Five day acknowledgement time frame
  • No administrative appeal option
  • No media waiver

Maine agencies have generally been appropriately responsive and helpful. However, the current administration has openly flouted public records laws and holes remain.

• Must acknowledge requests within five days.

• May apply to the executive branch, some (but not all) legislative records, and nongovernmental agencies receiving public funds.

• No residency requirement.

• Appeals can be made to the Superior Court for the State in the county of receipt.

Supplemental

Definition of public information - Maine Revised Statutes, Title 1,Chapter 13, Subchapter 1 § 402

The Details

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

Yes. Maine law currently has no provision dictating a residency requirement.

To whom does this apply?

  • Executive?

Yes.

Judicial?

No.

Legislative?

Yes, except for records and memos associated with the development of legislative reports.

Is there a designated records custodian?

Yes, each agency is supposed to designate an individual to handle public access.

“Each agency, county, municipality, school administrative unit and regional or other political subdivision shall designate an existing employee as its public access officer to serve as the contact person for that agency, county, municipality, school administrative unit or regional or other political subdivision with regard to requests for public records under this subchapter.” Maine Revised Statutes, Title 1, Chapter 13, Subchapter 1 § 413

Who is exempted?

The Public Records Act doesn’t apply to the judicial branch.

How can requests be submitted?

  • In-person?*

Yes. Maine Revised Statutes, Title 1, Chapter 13, Subchapter 1 § 408-A

Verbally?

Yes.

By mail?

Yes.

By email?

Yes.

How long do they have to respond?

Agencies are expected to provide an acknowledgement within five days and provide a time and cost estimate within “a reasonable time.”

“The agency or official having custody or control of a public record shall acknowledge receipt of a request made according to this section within 5 working days of receiving the request and may request clarification concerning which public record or public records are being requested. Within a reasonable time of receiving the request, the agency or official shall provide a good faith, nonbinding estimate of the time within which the agency or official will comply with the request, as well as a cost estimate as provided in subsection 9. The agency or official shall make a good faith effort to fully respond to the request within the estimated time.” Maine Revised Statutes, Title 1, Chapter 13, Subchapter 1 § 408-A

Are there provisions regarding the extension of response times?

Agencies are expected to reply within the estimated time frame they provided.

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

The law requires that an agency provide an estimated date on which records will be provided. No tracking number is explicitly required.

Can they ask why you ask?

Though it may be necessary to justify particular requests, a requester does not need to provide a reason for the request.

What enforcement?

One may file an appeal in court.

“Any person aggrieved by a refusal or denial to inspect or copy a record or the failure to allow the inspection or copying of a record under section 408-A may appeal the refusal, denial or failure within 30 calendar days of the receipt of the written notice of refusal, denial or failure to the Superior Court within the State for the county where the person resides or the agency has its principal office. The agency or official shall file a statement of position explaining the basis for denial within 14 calendar days of service of the appeal. If a court, after a review, with taking of testimony and other evidence as determined necessary, determines such refusal, denial or failure was not for just and proper cause, the court shall enter an order for disclosure. Appeals may be advanced on the docket and receive priority over other cases when the court determines that the interests of justice so require.” Maine Revised Statutes, Title 1, Chapter 13, Subchapter 1 § 409

Fees?

Fees may cover copies and search time at a rate no greater than $15 an hour. Maine Revised Statutes, Title 1, Chapter 13, Subchapter 1 § 408-A

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

The agency may waive fees if the requester is indigent or if the request is determined to be in the public interest. Maine Revised Statutes, Title 1, Chapter 13, Subchapter 1 § 408-A(11)

Attorney’s fees - Can you win them?

Yes.

“In an appeal under subsection 1 or 2, the court may award reasonable attorney’s fees and litigation expenses to the substantially prevailing plaintiff who appealed the refusal under subsection 1 or the illegal action under subsection 2 if the court determines that the refusal or illegal action was committed in bad faith. Attorney’s fees and litigation costs may not be awarded to or against a federally recognized Indian tribe.” Maine Revised Statutes, Title 1, Chapter 13, Subchapter 1 § 409(4)

Exemptions and Appeals

What exemptions exist?

There are multiple specific, mandatory exemptions outlined in the law. There are others mentioned in the statutes.

Are they mandatory or discretionary?

It varies.

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

Yes, and elements that are not specifically exempt may be provided.

How much time do you have to appeal?

There is no administrative appeal option. However, one may appeal in the Superior Court of the State in the county in which the request was made. This must be done within 30 days of the rejection. Maine Revised Statutes, Title 1, Chapter 13, Subchapter 1 § 409

To whom does the appeal go?

The court.

Can you appeal a delay?

Yes.

Do agencies have to tell you where to send your appeal?

The appeal option is through the court.

What if your appeal is denied?

You can appeal to the Supreme Judicial Court.

Where else can you turn?

There exists a Maine Public Access ombudsman to mediate resolutions to public records issues.

Are all appeals kept officially?

There isn’t an administrative appeal option.

Resources

Organizations

The following organizations offer resources for those seeking public records in Maine.

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.

Successful appeals

News Stories on Public Records Laws in the State

Submit a new link

Blogs and feeds primarily focused on public records in Maine

Public Records Guide and Advice

Newsletters

We do not yet know of any FOIL newsletters in Maine. Know of one we missed? Let us know!

Big FOIA wins

Have a public records success story? Let us know!

The following individuals, firms and organizations offer, on a case by case basis, pro bono resources for FOIA requesters seeking assistance. They are not endorsed nor vetted by MuckRock but are presented as a resource to the requesting community:

Have other resources, tips, or information this page should include? Email info@muckrock.com. <br/> <br/>

Stats

Request Record
120 Filed
46 Completed
6 Rejected
34 No Responsive Documents
2 Awaiting Acknowledgement
9 Awaiting Response
13 Requiring Action
11 Overdue
Appeals
None
Allowed Response Time
5 days
Average Response Time
27 days
Success Rate
33.33%
Average Fee
$380.63
12.50% of requests have a fee

Top Agencies See All

Agency Requests Pages Released
Maine State Police 284 885
Office of the Attorney General - Maine 34 117
Machias Town Hall 29 87
Department of Education 28 467
Department of Health and Human Services 25 378
Maine Criminal Justice Academy 24 214
Department of Corrections 20 13
Portland Police Department 15 37
City Manager 11 24
Cumberland County Sheriff's Office 10 59

Top Localities See All

Jurisdiction Requests Pages Released
Machias, ME 29 87
Portland, ME 14 86
Sanford, ME 11 24
Cumberland County, ME 10 59
Brunswick, ME 6 40
Washington County, ME 3 1
Wiscasset, ME 3 0
Lincoln County, ME 2 1
Bangor, ME 2 0
Biddeford, ME 2 0