An Overview of New Statute Regarding Disputes Alleging Denial of Access to Public Records

In General by Coolidge Wall

On September 28, 2016, Ohio Revised Code Section 2743.75 went into effect, which gives the Court of Claims exclusive and sole jurisdiction over disputes alleging denial of access to public records. This Section gives aggrieved individuals an alternative to filing a mandamus action if their public records request is denied.

If an individual’s public records request is denied, they now have the option to file a complaint in the Court of Claims with a $25 filing fee. When a complaint is filed, a special master will be appointed. The special master will determine whether or not the case should go to mediation. If an agreement is reached during mediation, the case is dismissed.

If mediation is unsuccessful or the case is not referred to mediation, then the public office is given the opportunity to file a response and a motion to dismiss if applicable. The special master then files his report and recommendation with the Court of Claims. The parties have 7 days to object to the special master’s report and recommendation. When the time for objections has passed or 7 days after a response to objection is filed, the Court of Claims will issue its final order. If the Court of Claims determines that the public office denied a records request in violation of the Public Records Act, then the individual must be given access to the requested records and the public office must pay the individuals filing fee and related costs (other than attorney’s fees).

The Court of Claims final order may be appealed but only if a timely objection to the report and recommendation was filed (unless the Court of Claims materially modified the report and recommendation). If Court of Appeals determines that the public office filed an appeal with the intent to delay compliance with the Court of Claims’ order for no reasonable cause or to unduly harass the aggrieved person, then the Court may award reasonable attorney’s fees pursuant to R.C. 149.43(C).

To learn more about this Section, or to discuss the Ohio Sunshine Laws in general, please contact Jessica A. Brockman at Coolidge Wall, at 937-449-5545.