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New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act

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The Inspection of Public Records Act is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to public records of governmental bodies in New Mexico.

The New Mexico Open Meetings Act legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted.

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

Relevant legal cases

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

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

Lawsuit Year
Carlsbad Current-Argus and New Mexico Foundation for Open Government v. City of Carlsbad 2005
Republican Party v. New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department 2010
State, ex rel. Attorney General v. First Judicial District Court 1981

Proposed changes


See also: Proposed reforms in state sunshine laws, 2011

We do not have any legislation for New Mexico in 2011.


See also: Proposed reforms in state sunshine laws, 2010

We do not have any legislation for New Mexico in 2010.


See also: Proposed reforms in state sunshine laws, 2009
  • Senate Memorial 45 (2008), sponsored by Senator Mark Boitano (R), requested that the Legislative Council Service "ensure[s] that the proceedings of the Senate will be streamed on the internet beginning in 2009."[1] The Senate appropriated $75,000 in 2005 for the purchase of equipment that would enable this, $30,000 of which had already been spent (cameras were purchased), but live video feed of the Senate still wasn't aired during 2009's regular session. However, Representative Janice Arnold-Jones (R) used her own resources to broadcast video of the House Taxation and Revenue Committee and the House Voters and Election Committee. Audio feed was available from the Senate.[2]
  • House Memorial 62, sponsored by Representative Thomas A. Anderson (R), requested that the roll-call votes of the House of Representatives be made available on the House website immediately following the vote.[3] This Memorial was postponed indefinitely in the House Judiciary Committee.[4]
  • House Bill 103, sponsored by Representative Bill O'Neill (D), would exempt personal identifying information (such as Social Security numbers), building plans, and security system specifications from public inspection.[5] Concerns over the bill had been expressed by those who perform background checks, saying that the bill "would be an insurmountable set-back" for screening job applicants.[6] The bill was postponed indefinitely by the House Business and Industry Committee.[7]
  • House Bill 200, sponsored by Roberto J. Gonzalez (D), would exempt "proprietary technical or business information" obtained by the Spaceport Authority from public inspection.[8] The bill was postponed indefinitely by the House Judiciary Committee.[9]
  • House Bill 237, sponsored by Representative Andrew Barreras (D), sought to change how public school accountability reports are generated and issued.[10] The bill was passed by the House (67-0) and, on March 15, 2009, was also passed by the Senate (31-1). It was subsequently vetoed by Governor Bill Richardson on March 25, 2009.[11][12]
  • House Bill 393, sponsored by Representative Joseph Cervantes (D), required that all standing and conference committee meetings be open to the public, and that the public be given "reasonable notice" when any such meeting is scheduled.[13] It allowed members of the public to attend legislative meetings intended to channel proposed legislation to the chamber floors (standing committees), as well as meetings intended to relieve legislative discrepancies between the houses (conference committees). This bill was passed by the House (66-0) and by the Senate (33-8), and was signed into law by Governor Bill Richardson on April 6, 2009.[14][12]
  • House Bill 507, sponsored by Representative Ken Martinez (D), sought to allow public records requests to be made via fax or e-mail so as to shorten the time in which a response must be made, require record custodian supervisors to approve decisions regarding exemptions, and to provide written explanations of exemptions.[15] After the House Health and Government Affairs Committee added many exceptions and presented its substitute bill, Rep. Martinez said he could no longer support it.[16] The bill was postponed indefinitely by the House Judiciary Committee.[17]
  • House Bill 534, sponsored by Representative Eleanor Chavez (D), sought to allow public records requests to be made electronically. It was passed by the House (64-0) and, on March 20, 2009, was also passed by the Senate (33-0). However, Governor Bill Richardson terminated the bill with a pocket veto.[18][19]
  • House Bill 546, introduced by Representative Al Park (D), called for the creation a searchable online database of all state contracts "beginning on or after January 1, 2010 and having a value of more than twenty thousand dollars."[20] This bill was passed by the House (65-0) and by the Senate (39-0), and was subsequently signed into law by Governor Bill Richardson on April 6, 2009.[21][12] It would be effective January 1, 2010.[20]
  • House Bill 598, introduced by Representative Joseph Cervantes (D) on February 4, 2009, "allow[s] electronic requests pursuant to the Inspection of Public Records Act." The bill specifies that e-mail or facsimile requests will satisfy the "written request" required for the inspection of public records.[22] It was passed by the House (64-0) and by the Senate (32-5), and was signed into law by Governor Bill Richardson on April 3, 2009.[23][12]
  • House Bill 866, introduced by Representative Antonio "Moe" Maestas (D) on February 19, 2009, sought to remove public access to the criminal records of convicted felons after a certain amount of time has passed from the completion of their sentences.[24] The bill was postponed indefinitely by the House Judiciary Committee.[25] A similar bill was vetoed by the Governor due to "technical flaws" in 2007.[26]

New Mexico's transparency report card

A 2008 study, BGA - Alper Integrity Index, conducted by the Better Government Association and sponsored by Alper Services, ranked New Mexico #42 in the nation with an overall percentage of 43.30%.[27]

A 2007 study, Graded state responsiveness to FOI requests, conducted by BGA and the NFOIC, gave New Mexico 47 points out of a possible 100, a letter grade of "F" and a ranking of 27 out of the 50 states.[28]

A 2002 study, Freedom of Information in the USA, conducted by IRE and BGA, ranked New Mexico's law as the 23rd best in the country, giving it a letter grade of "C-".[29]

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 declared legal intention of the law states:

"Recognizing that a representative government is dependent upon an informed electorate, the intent of the legislature in enacting the Inspection of Public Records Act (14-2-4 NMSA 1978) is to ensure, and it is declared to be the public policy of this state, that all persons are entitled to the greatest possible information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts of public officers and employees. It is the further intent of the legislature, and it is declared to be the public policy of this state, that to provide persons with such information is an essential function of a representative government and an integral part of the routine duties of public officers and employees."[30]

What records are covered?

See also: Defining public records

Records include "all documents, papers, letters, books, maps, tapes, photographs, recordings and other materials, regardless of physical form or characteristics, that are used, created, received, maintained or held by or on behalf of any public body and relate to public business, whether or not the records are required by law to be created or maintained."[31]


Notable exceptions include:

  • Medical records (14-2-1-A-1 and 14-6-1-A)
  • Letters of reference and matters of opinions placed in personnel or student files (14-2-1-A-2 and A-3)
  • Law enforcement records that reveal confidential sources, methods, information or individuals accused but not charged with a crime (14-2-1-A-4)
  • Donations to universities and museums where the donor has asked that the donated item be made confidential (14-2-1-A-5 and 14-3-A-1)
  • Records containing the identity of applicants or nominees for the position of president of a public college or university, except that the governing board shall give public notice of the names of at least five finalists for the position at least 21 days before the date of final action (14-2-1-A-7 and 14-2-1B)
  • Public hospitals' trade secrets, attorney-client privileged information or business plans (14-2-1-A-6)
  • Tactical response plans or procedures (14-2-1-A-8)
  • Military discharge documents (14-2-1-A-9)
  • As otherwise provided by law (14-2-1-A-12)[32]

However, custodians are required by law to separate exempt and non-exempt materials in the same source and release non-exempt materials.[33]

Deliberative process

See also: Deliberative process exemption

What agencies are covered?

See also: Defining public body

The document includes all divisions of government and any body that was created by statute and receives any public funding.[34] All government bodies that fall under New Mexico's Inspection of Public Records Act are required by law to both designate an individual as the official custodian of the records and to post the information regarding the procedures and fees for viewing and copying public records in a "conspicuous location."[35] If a records request is submitted to the wrong department, the custodian of that department must not only notify the person making the request that it is the wrong department, but must also forward the request to the correct department.[36]


See also: Legislatures and transparency

The legislature falls under the definition of public body found at New Mexico Statute 14-2-6 and is considered subject to the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act.

Privatized governmental agencies

See also: Private agency, public dollars and Private agency, public dollars-New Mexico

The New Mexico law includes all private entities that were created by statute and that also receive public funding.

Public universities

See also: Universities and open records

The definition of public body presumably includes public universities within the state. The law does exempt donations to universities, when the donor requests anonymity under New Mexico Statute 14-2-1.

Who may request records?

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

Anyone may request public documents in New Mexico. The law explicitly states: "Every person has a right to inspect public records of this state."[37]

Must a purpose be stated?

See also: States requiring a statement of purpose

No statement of purpose is required by New Mexico statute.[38]

How can records be used?

See also: Record use restrictions

The law does place a restriction on the use of police reports, in that they cannot be used to solicit victims for services.[39]

Time allowed for response

See also: Request response times by state

New Mexico law allows three business days to respond to records request. However, if the assigned custodian is unable to obtain the records in that time, he or she must notify the person making the request in writing when the records will be available. The records must be made available within 15 days of the receipt of the request.[40] However, in what are deemed "excessively burdensome" requests, the custodian must only make the materials available in a reasonable amount of time.[41]

Fees for records

Copy costs

See also: How much do public records cost?

The law allows for the charging of a reasonable fee not to exceed $1.00 per page to cover the cost of duplication.[42]

Search fees

See also: Sunshine laws and search fees

The fee cannot include the cost of assembling the records or determining exemption status.[43]

Role of the Attorney General

See also: Role of the Attorney General

Although the State Attorney publishes compliance guides and checklists for the state sunshine laws and participates in seminars, he or she does not exercise prosecutorial powers in the enforcement of the Act.

Open meetings

"In recognition of the fact that a representative government is dependent upon an informed electorate, it is declared to be public policy of this state that all persons are entitled to the greatest possible information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts of those officers and employees who represent them. The formation of public policy or the conduct of business by vote shall not be conducted in closed meeting. All meetings of any public body except the legislature and the courts shall be public meetings."[44]

Notable requests


Reporters William Selway and Martin Z. Braun used the New Mexico FOIA act to request a copy of the September 22, 2008 subpoena served on Gov. Bill Richardson's office by federal investigators. The subpoena showed that the federal grand jury was interested in the roles that former Richardson chief of staff David Contarino, political adviser Michael Stratton, and JPMorgan Chase & Co. banker Chris Romer may have played in the hiring of Richardson campaign donors to do lucrative bond work for the state government.[45]

See also

External links


  1. Text of SM 45
  2. Roundhouse resists entering 21st century, New Mexico Independent, January 22, 2009
  3. Text of HM 62
  4. Status of HM 62
  5. Text of HB 103
  6. New Mexico House Bill 103 Threatens Employment Background Checks, Employee Screen IQ, February 9, 2009
  7. Status of HB 103
  8. Text of HB 200
  9. Status of HB 200
  10. Text of HB 237
  11. Status of HB 237
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 Governor Bill Richardson's final bill action, Las Cruces Sun-News, April 10, 2009
  13. Text of HB 393
  14. Status of HB 393
  15. Text of HB 507
  16. Legislative roundup for Feb. 26, Santa Fe New Mexican, February 26, 2009
  17. Status of HB 507
  18. Text of HB 534
  19. Status of HB 534
  20. 20.0 20.1 Text of HB 546
  21. Status of HB 546
  22. Text of HB 598
  23. Status of HB 598
  24. Text of HB 866
  25. Status of HB 866
  26. Bill limits access to criminal records, KRQE, February 25, 2009
  27. 2008 BGA-Alper Integrity Index
  28. States Failing FOI Responsiveness, National Freedom of Information Coalition, October 2007
  29. Freedom of Information in the USA, 2002
  30. New Mexico Statutes section 14-2-5
  31. New Mexico Statute 14-2-6
  32. New Mexico Statute 14-2-1
  33. 14-2-9-A
  34. New Mexico Statute 14-2-6
  35. New Mexico Statute 14-2-7
  36. Arizona Statute 14-2-8-e
  37. New Mexico Code, 14-2-1
  38. 14-2-8-C
  39. New Mexico 14-2A-1
  40. Arizona Statute 14-2-8-E
  41. 14-2-10
  42. 14-2-9-B
  43. 14-2-9-B
  44. New Mexico Statutes section 10-15-1
  45. Bloomberg News, "New Mexico Records on Governor Aides, JPMorgan Sought in Probe", January 21, 2009