Public Records Requests in Massachusetts: Sample requests and follow-up letters

Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

Sample record requests and successful efforts to get an agency to give information in a more timely manner

The law states that records shall be produced for inspection "without unreasonable delay," and also that within 10 days' receipt of request, the record keeper must comply with the request.  G.L. c. 66, § 10(b).  See generally G.L. c. 66, § 10; G.L. c. 4, § 7, cl. 26; 950 CMR 32.  If you do not get an initial response within the 10 day period, or you think that the response is inadequate, you may have to follow up with the agency and with the Office of the Secretary of State to get your information.

Be aware that, per a July 30, 2015 Memorandum from Governor Baker, all secretariats and agencies are advised to 1) designate a records access officer, 2) establish a public records requests tracking system, 3) contact records requesters early, 4) waive search and retrieval rees, 5) limit time spent on requests from a single requester, 6) charge standardized production costs, 7) produce electronically searchable documents, 8) coordinate with related offices on requests, and 9) post frequently requested public records and information.

Administrative Appeal: You can formally appeal a denial of your request within 90 days of the request. You can request an order through the Supervisor of Public Records in the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth. G.L. c. 66, § 10(b); 950 CMR 32.08(2).

Initiating a Complaint: If there is an actual denial of your request, you can alternatively bring a court case at that time. “In any court proceeding pursuant to . . . [G.L. c. 66, § 10(b), non-compliance with a request] there shall be a presumption that the record sought is public, and the burden shall be upon the custodian to prove with specificity the exemption which applies.” G.L. c. 66, § 10(C).

Sample public records requests:

Samples of follow-up actions with Keepers of Records and with the Secretary of State:

The following websites describe the general process for getting information from various agencies in greater detail, and offer sample forms that you can fill out.