This template is for journalists seeking to compel a Maine state agency to turn over government records1 requested under the FOAA. The template provides an outline for complaints of FOAA violations filed in Superior Court. The template presumes that the requestor has submitted a request in writing2 to the custodian of records in the relevant public agency; and that the requestor has waited (a) at least five (5) working days for a response or denial from the agency and has not received any such response;3 or (b) that the requestor is filing the complaint within 30 calendar days of a denial.4
The statute provides that a fine of up to $500 may be levied on the agency if the Court finds that the agency committed a “willful violation” of Maine’s FOAA. A petitioner may recover litigation expenses and reasonable attorneys’ fees if the Court determines that the refusal to provide access to the records was undertaken in bad faith.5
1 With several enumerated exceptions, 1 M.R.S.A. § 402 defines “public records” as: “[A]ny written, printed or graphic matter or any mechanical or electronic data compilation from which information can be obtained, directly or after translation into a form susceptible of visual or aural comprehension, that is in the possession or custody of an agency or public official of this State or any of its political subdivisions, or is in the possession or custody of an association, the membership of which is composed exclusively of one or more of any of these entities, and has been received or prepared for use in connection with the transaction of public or governmental business or contains information relating to the transaction of public or governmental business . . . .”
2 Maine’s FOAA applies to oral and written requests, but it is advisable to use a written request so that a record is made of any future denials. 1 M.R.S.A. § 408-A(2)(A).
3 1 M.R.S.A. § 408-A(3) & (4).
4 1 M.R.S.A. § 409(1) provides that any person denied a request for a public record must appeal within 30 calendar days of receipt of the written notice of denial. See also Guy Gannett Publishing Co. v. Maine Department of Public Safety, 555 A.2d 474 (Me. 1989) (complaint dismissed because it was not filed within the 5-day appeal period).
5 1 M.R.S.A. § 409(4).