We help requesters figure out what to request, how to request it, and how to pursue an appeal, if necessary. We can help you avoid or reduce fees. We can help speed up response times by holding agencies to their statutory obligations to produce records. In many cases, we offer a free consultation to talk to you about the open records issues you are facing.
HOW TO FILE A REQUEST:
Figure out which agency you want to request records from
First, you need to find out which state agency or entity has the records you want. In Pennsylvania, you can only get financial records from the judiciary, and legislative records from the legislature. But you can get all sorts of records from state and local agencies, like the Department of Health, or a school district.
Draft your request
Here is a form that you can use to draft your request. There are some complicated laws relating to the way your request must be written. Your request has to be specific, which means that it has to have a subject matter, a limited scope, and a finite time frame. Try to avoid using words like “any and all” or “including but not limited to.” If you need help drafting your request, contact us for assistance.
Send your request to the proper person
The request has to be sent to the agency’s open records officer. For a list of open records officers in every Pennsylvania agency, click here. If you can’t find an open records officer, try emailing the general email account for that agency and simply asking who the open records officer is. By law, they are required to have one.
Know when to appeal
The agency has five business days to respond to your request. They can extend the request for thirty days, grant your request, or deny your request. The most common response is an extension. If you don’t hear anything from the agency in five business days, you have fifteen business days to appeal to the Office of Open Records.