Why FOIA? Why email?


In 2014, my office received 81 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Forty eight of them included requests for emails. In preparing this research guide, I found no FOIA or other public records laws that exclude email from the definition of “record,” and the purpose of this guide is not to advocate for such an exclusion. Nevertheless, these numbers suggest the importance of this issue. News stories involving public officials’ email were of note during the period when I prepared this guide, but did not play a role in the selection of the topic.

Note on terminology:

The terms “freedom of information,” “public records laws,” “sunshine laws,” and “open government” (and variants) are not synonymous. However, there is significant overlap and a term used one way in one state may be used in another way in another state. This guide uses only “freedom of information” as a starting point for research, but the researcher should remember that there may be results from additional search terms.

Note on research process:

Unless you are looking for a known law, I recommend that you begin your research with secondary sources.

Case law Statutes secondary