This template is for journalists seeking to compel a public agency to turn over public records requested under Montana’s open records laws. The template provides a general outline for complaints filed in district court with areas for editing in brackets.
The process for requesting public records and appealing a denial of that request is generally uncomplicated. A request must be made to the custodian of the sought document. Upon the denial of a request or undue delay by the custodian of the records, there are no administrative appeal requirements; the requester may directly petition any Montana district court for relief. There is no time limit for filing a petition to obtain records.
A petition for relief need not be complicated; a simple statement of the facts, a description of the requested documents, and the relief sought will suffice.1 Most courts will respond immediately to open records questions.
The most common reason given for denying a request for records is that “the demand of individual privacy clearly exceeds the merits of public disclosure.”2 In such a case, one should make an argument for the importance of disclosure as well as diminishing any concerns over individual privacy that may be affected.
1 See Board of Trustees v. Board of County Commissioners, 186 Mont. 148 (1980).
2 Mont. Const. art. II, § 9.