Ohio Public Records Lawyer
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If a person has attempted to obtain public records and been denied access, or if a government official challenges a records request, this dispute may proceed before the Ohio Court of Claims.
Our lawyers at Graff & McGovern can listen to the details of the case and provide knowledgeable legal advice about public records rights and legal options. Contact us today at 614-228-5800, or use our online contact form, to schedule an appointment with an experienced Ohio public records lawyer today.
Ohio Public Records Act
Under the Ohio Public Records Act, every person has the right to ask for copies or to inspect public records kept by government offices. Government agencies also have the right to deny records requests under certain circumstances. The statute details which records are public and which are exempt from disclosure, and how government agencies must retain and maintain public records.
A public records request must contain enough clear and specific information that the records can be identified reasonably. However, state law says that a records request does not have to be made in writing. Nor does the requester have to provide a name or a reason why the records are being requested.
Public agencies can deny a records request for a few reasons, including:
- The request is not for an existing record, or the agency no longer has the record
- The request is ambiguous or overly broad
- The records are not subject to public disclosure
If an agency denies a request, it must state the legal reason supporting the denial.
Public Records Disputes
When a records request is denied, traditionally the requester can ask a court to order the agency to provide the records in an original action in mandamus. A new statute grants jurisdiction to the Ohio Court of Claims to hear complaints alleging a denial of access to public records.
To initiate a claim, a person applies to the local Common Pleas Court Clerk or to the Clerk of the Court of Claims, paying a $25.00 fee and filing a form. A Special Master refers the dispute to mediation, unless it is in the interest of justice to send the matter for a decision without first going to mediation. If mediation ends unsuccessfully, the agency has ten (10) days to file a response or a motion to dismiss.
Seven (7) days after the agency files a response or motion to dismiss, the Special Master shall submit to the court of claims a report and recommendation. After the Special Master files the report and recommendation, any party may object within seven (7) days after receipt. The objection shall be specific and state with particularity all grounds for the objection.
At this point, the parties need legal counsel to cite specific legal bases, or risk waiver on appeal.
With no objection, the Court of Claims shall promptly issue a final order. If either party objects, the other party may file a response within seven business days after receiving the objection. With no responsive pleading, the Court of Claims then must issue a final order within seven business days after the response to the objection is filed.
If the Court of Claims determines that the issue is of first impression, then the Court of Claims can dismiss the complaint and direct that the requester file an original action in mandamus. By choice, a person still may file a mandamus action in court as an alternative to the new process.
How an Ohio Public Records Lawyer Can Help
Public records cases are legally complex. Representation by an experienced Ohio public records lawyer will assist both with mediation and with litigating cases at the Ohio Court of Claims or on appeal.
The new statute presents challenges to clients who are unfamiliar with the Ohio Court of Claims. A qualified lawyer can help ensure that a client’s case is presented in the best possible manner.
Contact Graff & McGovern Today
Obtaining public records can be essential to businesses and individuals in working with government; sometimes the best interests of government are preserved when information is not publicly disclosed.
The new public records dispute resolution process mandated by Ohio law will develop over several years, building a new body of law. For decades, our attorneys at Graff & McGovern have represented clients seeking or defending against public records requests under Ohio law.
Call us at 614-228-5800, or use our online contact form, to schedule an appointment about your public records case today and to learn how Graff & McGovern can help you meet your goals.