Ohio, USA

Ohio Public Records Guide

Ohio Open Records Law

Ohio Rev. Code sec. 149.43 et seq.

Enacted in 1963

Overview

Ohio’s history of access to public records predates the official passage of the state’s 1963 law, and in fact predates its statehood: As the Reporter’s Committee for the Freedom of the Press noted, a 1901 court decision clearly stated that, “As public records are but the people’s records, it would seem necessarily to follow that unless forbidden by a constitution or statute, the right of the people to examine their own records must remain.”

Unfortunately, that “forbidden by a constitution or statute” caveat can appear at the most inopportune times. For example, courts have ruled that even public employees’ personal notes taken on the job can be exempt, since they were for employee rather than as part of their duties to their employer.

Attorneys fees can, and in some circumstances when promised deadlines are missed or requests are ignored must, be awarded when a requester sues. This is useful as there is no administrative appeal process in the state.

While there is not a set deadline for when a response must be made, it is expected to be “prompt”: Without delay and with reasonable speed, according to the RCFP.

There are no administrative appeals here. Instead a requester must pay $25 to file a complaint in the Ohio Court of Claims, and the government agency has seven days to respond. The court has 45 days to issue a legally binding decision. This saves the requester from paying a lawyer to bring the case to court (as Ohio requesters had to prior to a 2016 update to the law), and they can even engage in mediation over the phone.

The Law

  • Prompt response time required, usually within several days
  • No administrative appeal, but requesters can file an appeal in Ohio Courts of Claims for $25
  • Awards attorneys fees and possibly punitive fees of $100 per day

Supplemental

Ohio State Records Retention Schedules

Ohio Local and County Records Retention Schedules

The Details

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

Yes.

To whom does this apply?

Executive?

Yes.

Legislative?

Yes.

Judicial?

Yes.

Who is exempted?

All “public offices” fall under Ohio’s public records law.

Is there a designated records custodian?

Not required.

How long do they have to respond?

While there is not set deadline, agencies are expected to respond promptly.

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

No.

Can they ask why you ask?

No.

What enforcement?

Enforcement is primarily through lawsuits, and a request does not need to be rejected before a requester may sue. Courts may award attorneys fees in many cases, and must if the agency simply ignored the request or misses a promised response date. In addition, a court may award a $100 per business day in punitive fees.

The attorney general may also enforce the public records law.

Fees?

In general, fees of the actual cost of materials, but not labor, may be charged. The Department of Motor Vehicles may charge additional fees for data requested for marketing or other commercial purposes.

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

No.

Attorney’s fees - Can you win them?

Yes, provided you win your appeal in court.

Exemptions and Appeals

What exemptions exist?

Exemptions to the Ohio Open Records Law are supposed to be specific. As the Reporters’ Committee for Freedom of the Press notes, “Not all statutory exemptions are contained within the statute itself. The Ohio Revised Code contains more than 400 separate statutory provisions addressing public records, many of them setting forth exemptions.”

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

Public offices must either “notify the requester of any redaction or make the redaction plainly visible.”

How much time do you have to appeal?

Not applicable.

Can you appeal to the courts?

Yes, litigation is the only resource for rejected requests.

Resources

Organizations

Ohio Coalition for Open Government Ohio Newspaper Association

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 Ohio. 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

Blogs and feeds primarily focused on public records in Ohio

Public Records Guide and Advice

RCFP Ohio exemption discussion Ohio Attorney General’s Guide ACLU Guide to Ohio Public Records

Newsletters

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Big FOIA wins

Have a public records success story? Let us know!

Stats

Request Record
482 Filed
199 Completed
20 Rejected
115 No Responsive Documents
33 Awaiting Acknowledgement
32 Awaiting Response
19 Requiring Action
Appeals
None
Allowed Response Time
No limit
Average Response Time
60 days
Success Rate
36.72%
Average Fee
$16.84
1.45% of requests have a fee

Top Agencies See All

Agency Requests Pages Released
Cleveland Police Department 47 241
Columbus Division of Police 35 960
Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction 33 1,116
Ohio State Highway Patrol 27 1,421
Cincinnati Police Department 24 289
Office of the Attorney General - Ohio 23 406
Toledo Police Department 21 197
Office of the Governor 16 906
Ohio Department of Public Safety 15 139
Secretary of State 14 50

Top Localities See All

Jurisdiction Requests Pages Released
Cleveland, OH 55 629
Columbus, OH 43 1,111
Cincinnati, OH 33 289
Toledo, OH 22 308
Akron, OH 11 178
Conneaut, OH 9 226
Cuyahoga County, OH 8 27
Youngstown, OH 8 421
Hamilton County, OH 5 25
Delaware County, OH 5 47