Nebraska Public Records Law

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The Nebraska Public Records Law is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to public records of government bodies at all levels in Nebraska. Sections 84-712 - 84-712.09 of the Nebraska Revised Statutes define the law.

The Nebraska Open Meetings Act legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted. Sections 84-1407 to 84-1414 of the Nebraska Revised Statutes define the law.

To learn more about how to make a public records request in this state, please see Nebraska FOIA procedures.

Relevant legal cases

See also: Court cases with an impact on state FOIA and Nebraska sunshine lawsuits

Here is a list of lawsuits in Nebraska (cases are listed alphabetically; to order them by year, please click the icon to the right of the "year" heading).


Lawsuit Year
Grein v. Board of Education 1984
Nixon v. Madison County Agricultural Society 1984
State ex rel. Upper Republican Natural Resources District v. District Judges of the District Court for Chase County 2007


Proposed changes

2011

See also: Proposed reforms in state sunshine laws, 2011


We do not currently have any legislation for Nebraska in 2011.


2010

See also: Proposed reforms in state sunshine laws, 2010


We do not currently have any legislation for Nebraska in 2010.


Nebraska's transparency report card

A 2008 study, BGA - Alper Integrity Index, conducted by the Better Government Association and sponsored by Alper Services, ranked Nebraska #6 in the nation with an overall percentage of 60.80%.[1]

A 2007 study, Graded state responsiveness to FOI requests, conducted by BGA and the NFOIC, gave Nebraska 87 points out of a possible 100, a letter grade of "B" and a ranking of 1 out of the 50 states.[2]

A 2002 study, Freedom of Information in the USA, conducted by IRE and BGA, ranked Nebraska's law as the best in the country, giving it a letter grade of "B."[3]

Features of the law

Sunshine variations Compare States: Sunshine variations
Click on the heading to compare your state's law to other state's transparency laws.

Declared legal intention

See also: Declared legal intentions across the U.S.

The act does not have a clearly defined legal intention. The opening statute of the act does state that:

"Except as otherwise expressly provided by statute, all citizens of this state, and all other persons interested in the examination of the public records, as defined in section 84-712.01, are hereby fully empowered and authorized to (a) examine the same, and make memoranda, copies using their own copying or photocopying equipment in accordance with subsection (2) of this section, and abstracts therefrom, all free of charge, during the hours the respective offices may be kept open for the ordinary transaction of business and (b) except if federal copyright law otherwise provides, obtain copies of public records in accordance with subsection (3) of this section during the hours the respective offices may be kept open for the ordinary transaction of business."[4]

What records are covered?

See also: Defining public records

Public records include all documents, no matter the form, belonging to any government agency.[5]

Exemptions

Exceptions to the law include but are not limited to:

  • Personal information of students or prospective students
  • Medical records
  • Trade secrets
  • Documents that would fall under attorney-client privilege, where a public body acts as the client
  • Law enforcement investigations
  • Appraisal information for potential sale or purchase of public lands
  • Personal information of employees other than salaries and office contact information
  • Security information
  • Account information at public utilities offices
  • Library records
  • "Correspondence, memoranda, and records of telephone calls related to the performance of duties by a member of the Legislature"[6]
  • Archaeological or historical locations information
  • Donor information for museum and university collections
  • Job application materials of individuals who were not selected for the position
  • Records of the Public Employee's Retirement Board
  • "Social Security numbers; credit card, charge card, or debit card numbers and expiration dates; and financial account numbers supplied to state and local governments by citizens"[7]

However, Nebraska law requires departments to separate exempt from non-exempt material and disclose strictly the non-exempt material.[8]

Deliberative process

See also: Deliberative process exemption

What agencies are covered?

See also: Defining public body

The Nebraska law includes all branches of government at both the state and local level.[9]

Legislature

See also: Legislatures and transparency

The definition of public body found within the Nebraska Public Records Law appears to include the legislature and the constitution requires the legislature to maintain and publish a journal of activities. However, individual legislators rely on deliberative process exemptions to exempt their personal working papers and contacts.[10]

Privatized governmental agencies

See also: Private agency, public dollars and Private agency, public dollars-Nebraska

While the Nebraska Public Records Act does not incorporate any definitions for public body that would impact private entities or quasi-government, the Nebraska Open Meetings Act includes all entities created by statute, entities that exercise public functions and any organizations that receive public funds through levying taxes.

Public universities

See also: Universities and open records

The definition of public body presumably includes public universities within the state. However, the law does contain an exemption for donor information at Nebraska Law 84-712.05.

Who may request records?

See also: List of who can make public record requests by state

Any citizen of the state, or any person interested in the inner workings of government, may request public records in Nebraska. The law explicitly states, "[A]ll citizens of this state, and all other persons interested in the examination of the public records ... are hereby fully empowered and authorized to examine the same."[11]

Must a purpose be stated?

See also: States requiring a statement of purpose

Nebraska law does not require a statement of purpose.

How can records be used?

See also: Record use restrictions

Nebraska law place no restrictions on the use of records.

Time allowed for response

See also: Request response times by state

Nebraska law allows four business days for the completion of records requests. However, it does permit extensions if the department requesting the extension submits a written statement of justification and declaration of the soonest the records can be made available to the person making the request.[12]

Fees for records

Copy costs

See also: How much do public records cost?

Nebraska law only permits fees charged for the actual material cost of duplication, including the medium and fees for the maintenance of equipment.[13] However, a waiver does exist for any member of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.[14]

Search fees

See also: Sunshine laws and search fees

Nebraska cannot charge for labor time as it would run counter to the declared intent of the passage that states that record access shall be free of charge.[15]

Role of the Attorney General

See also: Role of the Attorney General

Under § 84-712.03 of the Nebraska Revised Statutes, any individual denied access to public records "can petition the Attorney General to review the matter to determine whether a record may be withheld from public inspection or whether the public body that is custodian of the record has otherwise failed to comply with the Public Records Statutes."[16] A decision on such a matter must be delivered by the State Attorney General within 15 calendar days starting from the date on which the petition was submitted. Should the public agency or state governmental official continue to withhold requested records after the Attorney General has handed down his decision, the requester may "demand in writing that the Attorney General bring suit in the name of the state in the trial court of general jurisdiction for the same purpose."[16]

Open meetings

Nebraska law declares "that the formation of public policy is public business and may not be conducted in secret. Every meeting of a public body shall be open to the public in order that citizens may exercise their democratic privilege of attending and speaking at meetings of public bodies."[17]

See also

External links

References