States requiring a statement of purpose

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How a state defines the term "public records" can have critical implications for judicial and legislative decisions regarding exemptions and areas in which the law may not apply. Below is a list of the various state's definition of public records within their statutory laws:

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Here is a list of "statement of purpose" requirements by state:

West Virginia Freedom of Information Act

The law does not require a statement of purpose.

Wisconsin Open Records Law

Wisconsin's statute--Wis. Stat. § 19.35(1)(i)--says, "Except as authorized under this paragraph, no request . . . may be refused because the person making the request is unwilling . . . to state the purpose of the request."[1]

However, in Hempel v. City of Baraboo, a 2005 decision of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, the court said, "In fact, requesters under the Open Records Law need not identify themselves, or state a purpose for their request...When performing a balancing test, however, a records custodian almost inevitably must evaluate context to some degree."[2] This seems to suggest that a records custodian has some leeway to inquire about the requester and the purpose of the request since it would not be possible "to evaluate context to some degree"--which the court suggests is a prerogative of the records custodian--in the absence of any information about the requester and his or her motivations.

In 2008, the West Bend School District denied a records request partly on the basis of what it believed about the requester and her motivations.[3][4]

See also

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