Since its launch in 1997, our unique letter generator has been used more than 100,000 times to assist journalists and other citizens obtain access to public records maintained by state or local government officials. The Student Press Law Center is happy to provide our letter generator free of charge as a public service.
In most cases, making a verbal request for records is a good first step. A professional but informal request in person may give you the information you need. But in some cases, especially when a verbal request has been denied, a written request letter is the best way to get the information you are seeking. Submitting an open records law request letter is not difficult. A complete, well-written request may help you avoid delays and further correspondence with a government agency.
The form below is designed to help you create a simple letter. It asks you for all pertinent information and guides you through the options available.
You can use this letter generator to request access to records held by a state or local government agency or body (e.g., public school district, city or campus police, state board of health, etc.). If you want to obtain records held by the federal government, we recommend using the letter generator offered by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
In order to complete this form you must be able to provide: a reasonable description of the public records you are seeking and the name and address of the government official who you believe is responsible for keeping those records.
Once you have entered the information requested, a letter will be generated that includes: the specific citation for your state’s open records law and how much time the law allows for an agency to respond. Where no time is specified by law, you will see the words “I would request your written response within 10 working days.” You may wish to change this. (Where no time is specified by law, most courts have required that government officials respond within a “reasonable time.”). Finally, the letter will note any specific penalties provided for by the law should government officials fail to comply with your request. (All generated data was accurate as of January 2010.) You may choose not to include all of this information in every request you make or you may wish to modify the tone of the letter. Use your best judgment about what will best persuade the government record keeper in question to provide you the information you seek.