Louisiana FOIA procedures
Each state varies slightly in the procedures used to gain access to public documents. This article serves to describe specifically the steps used in Louisiana. To read the history and details of Louisiana’s sunshine laws please see Louisiana Public Records Act
How to request public records in Louisiana
Requests should be directed to the department in control of the records. The act does not indicate that departments are required to designate an official records custodian.
Purpose and use
Records can be requested for any reason, which does not have to be given to the custodian of the records. The Custodian of the Records "shall make no inquiry of any person who applies for a public record, except an inquiry as to the age and identification of the person."
There are no restrictions placed on the use of records in Louisiana.
Who may request public records?
Until 2004, when the legislature amended the law to allow minors to receive copies of public records, those requesting records had to be "of the age of majority."
Some people are not allowed to request records:
- A convicted felon in custody may not request records unless the request is limited to grounds upon which the individual could file for post-conviction relief. See Hilliard v. Litchfield, a 2002 case.
- Public bodies may not request records, although the individuals who make up a public body may make a request. See Plaquemines Parish Council v. Petrovich, a 1994 case.
- The right to inspect records only applies to the person who actually made the request, even if that person is acting under the supervision of or at the direction of someone else. See Vourvoulias v. Movassaghi, a 2005 ruling. with these exceptions:
- See also: How much do public records cost?
No fee is charged to view public records as long as they ask to view the records during normal office hours. Custodians of records are allowed to charge a "reasonable fee" to requestors who ask to view records outside of normal office hours.
Fees for copies of records are established by the custodian and must be "reasonable."
- Indigent persons who are state residents may be provided copies of records without charge or at a reduced charge.
- If the custodian determines that copies of public documents will be used only for a "public purpose," the custodian may furnish them without charge or at a reduced charge. An example of a "public purpose" is the use of the records in a hearing before a governmental regulatory commission.
- Two state appellate courts have reached opposite conclusions as to whether courts have the discretion to order that documents be provided to an inmate without charge or at a reduced charge. State of Louisiana v. Jean, 2003, said a court has discretion to order that copies be provided at no cost. Diggs v. Pennington, 2003, said a lower trial court did not err when it said it lacked the power to compel a state agency to provide a free report to an inmate.
- See also: Request response times by state
Section 44:32(D) of the relevant statute dictates that the custodian of the records must respond to requests within three days. Weekends and holidays are excluded from the three day countdown. The custodian of the records is required to respond in some fashion within the three-day window even if the custodian is still engaged in a decision process about which, if any, of the requested records can be withheld. See Association of Rights of Citizens v. St. Bernard, a 1990 case.
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