Missouri, USA

Missouri Public Records Guide

The Missouri Sunshine Law

Chapter 610 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri

Established 1973

Public Records Law

§ 610.011, RSMo

Enacted 1961.

Overview

The Missouri Sunshine Law is open to all, holds that nearly every public agency is subject to the law except for some kinds of judicial records, and has a very narrowly worded exemptions list that is more specific than much of the exemption language in other states FOIA laws. Enforcement is fairly strong, with a one thousand dollar fine for violators of the law that unknowingly failed to comply with the law and a $5,000 fine for purposeful violations of the law. Fees are held to actual cost in Missouri. There is however no public records custodian, counselor or ombudsman here.

There are no administrative appeals here. Instead a requester has one year to file a suit in circuit court if they wish to appeal a request for any reason.

It should be noted that technically Missouri has two public records law. The other is known as the 2and predates the Sunshine Law, being established 1961. This law is much more limited than the Sunshine Law, and deals only with records kept due to statute or ordinance.

The Law

  • Three day response time
  • No administrative appeal
  • Narrow scope for exemption language

Supplemental

State Records Retention Schedules

Local Records Retention Schedules

Missouri Court Records

The Details

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

Access to public records in Missouri are covered by two laws, the Missouri Sunshine Law and the Missouri Public Records Law: The former is open to all, while the latter restricts some or all requests to Missouri citizens (A full list of states with such restrictions). MuckRock may use volunteer proxy filers to file requests in this state.

In this instance, the regulation restricting the right to citizen requesters in the Missouri Public Records Law reads:

All public records … except as otherwise provided shall be open for a personal inspection by any citizen of this state at a reasonable time and place; and those in charge of such records shall not refuse this privilege to any citizen.

To whom does this apply?

Executive?

Yes.

Legislative?

Yes.

Judicial?

According to the law only administrative records from the Judiciary are available for disclosure. Article 1, § 14 of the Missouri Constitution states that “the courts of justice shall be open to every person,” and the Missouri Supreme Court ruled in Transit Casualty Co., 435 S.W.3d 293, 300 (Mo. banc 2001) that “there is a common law right of public access to court and other public records”. The state AG has held that juror records are considered administrative as well. Juvenile court records are totally off limits.

Who is exempted?

The Sunshine Law is quite broad and other than charitable groups that are not an arm of the government, all public bodies are free to request documents from.

Is there a designated records custodian?

No.

How long do they have to respond?

In Missouri agencies have three days to comply or deny a request or invoke a Reasonable Cause exception for more time. If they have not responded by three days the agency must give you a detailed written explanation for why they are late and also provide an estimated date of completion.

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

No for the tracking number, but if the agency goes over the three day time limit without responding they must give you an estimated date of completion.

Can they ask why you ask?

No.

What enforcement?

For inadvertent violations of the law there are penalties of up to $1,000 for an individual or agency. For purposeful violations the law stipulates up to $5,000 in fines. The court deciding on the penalties weighs previous offenses by the defendant, size of the jurisdiction that the offender operates in, and the gravity of the offense.

Fees?

Searches must be conducted in the most efficient way possible but searches can be charged for at actual cost of labor. Copying is charged for at actual cost of labor and the cost of the paper or electronic means used in duplication.

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

Yes, if you can prove you are requesting to further public knowledge and good, there are fee waivers available here.

Attorney’s fees - Can you win them?

Yes, provided you win your appeal in court.

Exemptions and Appeals

What exemptions exist?

Exemptions to the Missouri Sunshine Law are supposed to be construed as narrowly as possible to further the openness of government. This makes Missouri’s list of 21 exemptions quite interesting, as they are very detailed about their scope. For instance when deliberating on whether or not to disclose real estate documents, an agency must weigh whether or not release really would adversely affect the legal consideration of that real estate. This very thorough breakdown of when records may be released under the exemption is very helpful and very detailed and can be very useful when requesting records in Missouri.

As for the actual exemption categories themselves, they are fairly standard. Personnel records, social security information, proprietary information in science or technology, personal financial information, law enforcement techniques and active cases, many kinds of medical records, scholastic information and sealed bids. A full list of Missouri’s exemptions can be found in the resources 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?

One year.

Can you appeal the courts?

Yes. In Missouri the only recourse for a requester is to file an appeal in the circuit court that the violation occurred in.

Resources

Organizations

Missouri Sunshine Coalition

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.

There are currently no experienced public records law attorneys that we know of in Missouri. Write to us at info@MuckRock.com if you know of any and want to help us out!

Successful appeals

News Stories on Public Records Laws in the State

MO Sunshine Law Lacks Teeth

Blogs and feeds primarily focused on public records in Missouri

Public Records Guide and Advice

RCFP Missouri exemeption discussion

Newsletters

Let us know

Big FOIA wins

Have a public records success story? Let us know!

Stats

Request Record
383 Filed
140 Completed
16 Rejected
89 No Responsive Documents
25 Awaiting Acknowledgement
22 Awaiting Response
20 Requiring Action
41 Overdue
Appeals
1 appeal awaiting response
Allowed Response Time
3 days
Average Response Time
45 days
Success Rate
32.11%
Average Fee
$18606.04
20.89% of requests have a fee

Top Agencies See All

Agency Requests Pages Released
St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department 231 8,620
St. Louis County Police Department 222 314
Kansas City Police Department 126 255
University of Missouri 80 12,013
Department of Corrections 64 1,169
Ferguson Police Department 56 687
Missouri Department of Public Safety 53 135
Office of the Attorney General - Missouri 42 1,028
Missouri Highway Patrol 42 180
Jefferson County Sheriff's Department 37 118

Top Localities See All

Jurisdiction Requests Pages Released
St. Louis, MO 278 8,721
St. Louis County, MO 253 462
Kansas City, MO 139 255
Ferguson, MO 56 687
Jefferson County, MO 37 118
Jefferson City, MO 26 799
Springfield, MO 17 11
Billings, MO 10 44
Chesterfield, MO 9 8
University City, MO 6 11