This template is for journalists seeking to compel a state agency to turn over records requested under PRA. The template provides a general outline for a petition for a writ of mandamus filed in district court with areas for editing in brackets. Filing a petition for a writ of mandamus with the court is one of two remedies available under PRA, and a journalist seeking documents should consider both options.
1. File a petition with the Attorney General1
A person may petition the Attorney General to review the record and determine whether it may be withheld from public inspection or whether the custodian of the record has otherwise failed to comply. The petition, which can be a letter to the attorney general, should identify the record withheld, include a copy of the agency’s denial letter, refer to the statutory authority that compels access and request action pursuant to Sec. 84-712.03.
The attorney general is required to make a determination within fifteen calendar days of submission of the petition. If the attorney general determines that the record may not be withheld or that the public body is otherwise not in compliance, the attorney general must order the public body to immediately disclose the record. If the public body continues to withhold the record or remain in noncompliance, the requester may (1) bring suit in the trial court or (2) demand in writing that the attorney general bring suit in the name of the state. If the requester makes that demand of the attorney general, the attorney general must bring suit within 15 calendar days. The requester has an absolute right to intervene as a full party in the suit.
2. File a petition for a writ of mandamus with the state district court2
A person may file a petition for a writ of mandamus against the public officer who has custody of the record to compel compliance with the PRA. The petition must be filed in the state district court within whose jurisdiction the public officer who has custody of the public record can be served. The court may award reasonable attorney fees and other litigation costs reasonably incurred by the complainant if he or she has substantially prevailed. Nev. Rev. State. § 84-712.07
A party seeking a writ of mandamus under section 84-712.03 has the burden to satisfy three elements: (1) The requesting party is a citizen of the state or other person interested in the examination of the public records; (2) the document sought is a public record as defined by section 84-712.01; and (3) the requesting party has been denied access to the public record as guaranteed by this section. Evertson v. City of Kimball, 278 Neb. 1, 767 N.W.2d 751 (2009).
Proceedings arising under Section 84-712.03 generally take precedence on the docket over all other cases and are generally expedited in every way.
Equitable relief is also available “whether or not any other remedy is also available.” Neb. Rev. Stat. § 84-712.07.
1 Neb. Rev. Stat. §84-712.03.
2 Neb. Rev. Stat. §84-712.03.