Are New York Public Records Open to the Public?

As a resident of New York State, you have the legal right to inspect public records using the state's Freedom of Information Act (FOIL). There are no limits on how many members of the public can request records. You have the legal right to inspect New York's public records through the state's Freedom of Information Act (FOIL). See sections 84 through 90 of the New York Public Servants Act (N, Y).

Act), which contains no limitations on which members of the public can request records. Although technically governed by a state public records law, functionally New York has two: the FOIL from New York City and the FOIL from anywhere else in the state. Some city agencies, such as the NYPD, for example, may receive thousands of requests a year and have their own unique (and deliberately frustrating) ways of handling those requests. On the contrary, some entire cities may receive a handful or even none, and they don't know how to handle basic requests.

However, this changes both ways: a municipal agency that argues that an email search would be unduly onerous would struggle to explain why a village employee was able to do so without any difficulty. FOIL appeals in New York are managed by an independent oversight board, the Open Government Committee. In theory, this would provide an extra layer of transparency, but in practice, the experience is only marginally different. Except in cases where the agency has clearly broken the law by blatantly ignoring or delaying a request, the board is carried away by the agency's discretion when it comes to exemptions, especially security exemptions, even when the request is too broad.

In the rare cases where these appeals have been successful, usually due to a previous lawsuit, there's nothing to stop the agency from resorting to exorbitant (and perfectly legal) fees. As the agency that receives the highest volume of requests in the most prolific non-national jurisdiction, the NYPD deserves special mention: although apparently governed by the same laws as any other New York agency, the NYPD operates almost independently, with its own rules, often arbitrary. Requests can only be made in writing (i.e., sent by mail) and, despite being a city-level agency, they have fought and won for the right to use the infamous “do not confirm or deny” security exemption. So, to amend what was said above, there are actually three laws in the state: that of New York City, the rest of the state and the New York Police.

New York law currently has no provision dictating a residency requirement. However, court records held by state agencies become public records and other laws allow for the release of court records. Oral requests are not covered by law. Within five days, requests must receive a denial, response or acknowledgment of receipt with an estimated end date, which must be within twenty days, and, if not, an explanation of why not.

Yes, when accusing a request, the agency must provide an approximate date when the records are expected to be available. There is no provision that allows the reason for a request to be a factor in release, and several cases have determined that the purpose of the request is basically irrelevant. There are no provisions on fee exemptions, although individuals can appeal fees in the same way that other appeals are filed. Yes, and items that are not specifically exempt must be provided.

Agencies are supposed to send a copy of appeals to the Open Government Committee. The following lawyers and law firms have practiced public records law. Names marked with an asterisk indicate a willingness to offer free services on a case-by-case basis. Jackson Parker sent this request to New York's North Colonie Central School District Jackson Parker sent this request to the sole oversight district in Cayuga-Onondaga and Boces Counties in New York.

Sam Mellins sent this request to the New York Governor's Office. MuckRock is a collaborative, non-profit news site that provides you with tools to keep our government transparent and accountable. If you want to access records from New York agencies but find yourself struggling with their procedures or exemptions they may be relying on then you can ask for help from an expert in public records law who can help you navigate through these issues. If an agency is relying on an exemption then you can ask them to disclose only those parts which are not exempt and delete or rewrite those parts which are exempt from disclosure.

There is no standard procedure you can follow when requesting records from New York agencies because each agency has its own procedures for managing requests for records. The New York County Clerk is responsible for receiving documents, initiating special actions and procedures and maintaining official court files which contain all documents filed with court in each case. Jackson Parker sent this request to Single Supervisory District of Cayuga-Onondaga and Boces Counties in New York. But keep in mind that marital files as noted above are confidential under New York State law and once an agency from New York State has moved to GovQA platform it will no longer appear in Open FOIL.

The New York Freedom of Information Act also allows agencies to deny requests for lists if lists that would be obtained would be used for commercial or fund-raising purposes. The New York Freedom of Information Act is series of laws designed to ensure that public has access to public records of New York government agencies. If you want to access records of state judiciary or state legislature then see Access To Government Meetings In New York And Court Records In The State Of New York for more information about it. The fees for copies of records which shall not exceed twenty-five cents per photocopy shall not exceed nine inches by fourteen inches or actual cost of reproducing any other record in accordance with provisions of paragraph (c) of this subdivision except when another fee is prescribed by law.

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Rory Rabinovich
Rory Rabinovich

Hardcore beer fanatic. Avid zombie lover. Certified zombie aficionado. Infuriatingly humble social media scholar. Passionate pop culture buff.

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