Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants...

Request Denied in Whole or Part

If a public body denies a request, in whole or part (which includes blackening out certain information in a provided record), the requester has two options:
  1. Submit an appeal to head of the public body or
  2. Immediately commence a lawsuit against the public body within 180 days after a public body's final determination to deny a request

Taking an Appeal

If you decide to take an appeal first, a written letter needs to be sent to the head of the public body who has ten days to make a decision to:
  • Reverse the disclosure denial;
  • Uphold the disclosure denial by written notice;
  • Reverse the disclosure denial in part and issue a written notice upholding the disclosure denial in part
Do note that sometimes the head of the public body is actually a board or committee, and not an actual person. In this case, the Board-as-Head has ten days from the next regularly scheduled meeting of that board.

If you are still unhappy with the result, you can still then file a lawsuit. You should seek the advice of experienced counsel. If the FOIA request was wrongfully denied, you are entitled to reasonable attorney fees and costs from the public body.

File a Lawsuit

While you can file a lawsuit on your own (known as a pro per), it is best at this point to contact an attorney. Remember that the clock in ticking as you only have 180 days to then file the lawsuit. Your attorney can provide additional insight and help with your request. If a lawsuit is then filed, the judge will hear the case to determine whether the denial was proper in a de novo review (legal term) with the burden on the public body to sustain its denial.

Penalties for Non-Compliance With FOIA

To give FOIA real enforcement teeth, FOIA provides certain penalities for government bodies found by the court as not in compliance with with FOIA's dictates.

If a person asserting the right to inspect, copy, or receive a copy of all or a portion of a public record prevails in an action commenced under this section, the court is required to award reasonable attorneys' fees, costs, and disbursements. If the person wins in part, the court may award an appropriate portion of reasonable attorneys' fees, costs, and disbursements.

In addition, if the court determines that a public body has arbitrarily and capriciously violated FOIA, he or she is also entitled to punitive damages in the amount of $500 from the public body.
 - What is FOIA
 - Fees for a FOIA Request
 - How to File a FOIA Request
 - Review Procedures and Penalties
 - FOIA Request Generator
 - Copy of FOIA Statute
 - I need a FOIA attorney

 - What is OMA
 - Basic Rights and Responsibilites
 - Notice Requirements
 - Closed Meetings and Sessions
 - Keeping Minutes
 - Enforcement and Penalties
 - Copy of OMA Statute
 - I need an OMA attorney

 - About the Project

Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants...

Louis D. Brandeis
in Other People's Money

Disclaimer: The information provided on this website is for general informational purposes only.