This template is for journalists seeking to compel a state or local agency to turn over records requested under the Oregon Public Records Law. The template provides a general outline for complaints filed in district court with areas for editing in brackets.
Oregon’s Public Records Law doesn’t specify a time frame by which a public agency must respond to a request for records.1 The Attorney General has stated that records must be provided within a “reasonable” time. When making the initial written request for records, it may be useful to state that the lack of a response within a specified time will be deemed a denial, thereby opening the door for appeal.
Oregon’s procedure for appealing a denial of disclosure slightly varies depending upon the nature of the public body holding the records in question:
State Public Body: An appeal from a denial of records request from a state public body must first go to the Attorney General.2 The appeal must take the form of a petition. The petition must: (1) identify the requester, (2) identify the public body that holds the records sought, (3) identify the records sought, (4) include a statement that inspection of the records was requested, and (5) include a statement that the request was denied, as well as which individual denied the request and the date of denial, if known.3
The Attorney General must rule on the petition within seven days of receipt. If a decision is not rendered within that time, the requester may consider the petition denied and file a complaint with the district court.4
If the Attorney General denies the petition, proceedings for injunctive or declaratory relief may be brought. When the records sought are held by a state public body, the proceedings must be filed in Marion County Circuit Court.5
County, City, or Local Public Body: If the records sought are held by a county, city, or local public body, an appeal of a denial must be directed to the district attorney for the county where the public body is located and take the same form of a petition filed with the Attorney General. The district attorney has the same time limit as the Attorney General to rule on the appeal.6
If the district attorney denies the petition, proceedings may be filed in the circuit court for the county in which the public body is located.7
Elected Official: If the decision to withhold records was made by an elected official, an appeal must be taken directly to court. Proceedings may be brought in either the local circuit court or in Marion County circuit court.8
Proceedings involving the denial of public records disclosure requests take precedence on the court docket over all other cases (except those “the court considers of greater importance”) and will be heard at the earliest practical date.9
If the requester prevails in the suit, “costs and disbursements and reasonable attorney fees” will be automatically awarded.10 If the court grants only partial disclosure of the records, then costs disbursements and reasonable attorney fees may be awarded in the court’s discretion.11
1 Or. Rev. Stat. § 192.440(2) (“If a person makes a written request to inspect a public record or to receive a copy of a public record, the public body receiving the request shall respond as soon as practicable and without unreasonable delay.”).
2 Id. § 192.450(1).
3 Id. § 192.470(1).
4 Id. § 192.465(1)
5 Id. § 192.450(2).
6 Id. § 192.460(1).
7 Id. § 192.450(1)(b).
8 Id. § 192.480(1).
9 Id. § 192.490(2).
10 Id. § 192.490(3).