Here is the state template for MuckRock's open state-by-state public records guide. You can copy and paste everything from the Overview on down when working on a state guide, and then emailing the finished copy to email@example.com. Note that we recommend filling out all the sections after the overview first and then returning to it at the end.
Good resources include the RCFP's Open Government Guide (note that it has not been updated in several years and may be out of date), guides from that state's Attorney's General office (almost every state has one), and resources generated by that state's NFOIC affiliate. The Center for Public Integrity also offers a ranking of each state's laws. The Boston Globe also has an interactive surveying key areas of each state's public records law.
A key overview, of about two to four paragraphs, of the state's public records law, addressing any unusual elements of the system in that state, strengths and weaknesses, and noting any major challenges for requesters. Subsections of one or two sentences addressing particular topics are encouraged.
The goal of the overview is to provide somebody who has only a basic understanding of public records with a reasonable understanding of the experience of filing in that state in a few paragraphs. The overview should avoid general claims about the law, such as its broken or corrupt (public records is like drivers: every state thinks it has the worst), and instead focus on specifics.
In the following sections, whenever possible, cite relevant responsive sections of the law and include important quotes from the law or relevant court cases, linking back to original citations.
A summary of the law's key points as a bulleted list.
- How long do agencies have to respond?
- Which branches are subject to the public records law?
- Does the state restrict out of state requesters or may anyone file a request?
- Is the appeal system centralized, decentralized, or non-existent?
- Are agencies required to have a designated records access officer?
What similar laws or resources exist for those seeking government information? A bulleted list of links to resources such as open records laws, data disclosure practices, open data acts, records retention schedules, public records regulations, official court records sites, and other, related access information. There is a strong bias to official government resources and laws in this section.
Answer the questions as best they can be answered. If a question does not apply, put
Not applicable underneath it. Answers should be concise but include enough information to be accurate.
Can you submit a request if you're not a resident?
To whom does this apply?
Is there a designated records custodian?
Who is exempted?
How can requests be submitted?
- By mail?
- By email?
How long do they have to respond?
Does the agency have to give you a tracking number or estimated date of completion?
Can they ask why you ask?
How is the law enforced?
Are there fee waivers for media requests or those made in the public interest?
Attorney's fees - Can you win them?
Exemptions and Appeals
What exemptions exist?
Do they have to tell you why a portion or pages were redacted or withheld?
How much time do you have to appeal?
To whom does the appeal go?
Can you appeal a delay?
Do agencies have to tell you where to send your appeal?
What if your appeal is denied?
Where else can you turn?
Are all appeals kept officially?
Can you appeal the courts?
A list of links to transparency organizations within the state, such as the local NFOIC affiliate and other transparency and good governance organizations.
Attorneys and Law Firms
List any law firms that specialize in public records law within the state or that have expressed a willingness to take on pro bono public records clients. If the latter, please note that willingness.
If you don't know of any firms that fit that will, use the following language:
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 Idaho. Write to us at info@MuckRock.com if you know of any and want to help us out!
A link to any repositories of successful appeals within that states. These are often hosted by the Attorney General's office of that state, if they exist.
News Stories on Public Records Laws in the State
Any high-profile stories regarding major court cases, legislative changes, or other news concerning the public records process in the state.
Blogs and feeds primarily focused on public records in Idaho
Links to any blogs, news sections, or other news feeds that comment exclusively on public access and transparency issues within the state.
Public Records Guide and Advice
A list of links to public records guides within the state. Include guides generated by government entities, such as the attorney general's office, as well as non-profits. The Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press has guides to every state.
A linked list to any public records-related newsletters within the state, if any.
Big FOIA wins
Links to any major public records-based stories that showed the positive impact of public access within the state.
Have a public records success story? Let us know!