An Act To Implement the Recommendations of the Right To Know Advisory Committee Concerning Response Deadlines and Appeals
Sec. 1. 1 MRSA §408-A, sub-§4, as amended by PL 2013, c. 350, §2, is further amended to read:
Sec. 2. 1 MRSA §409, sub-§1, as repealed and replaced by PL 2013, c. 350, §3, is amended to read:
Sec. 3. 1 MRSA §413, sub-§1, as enacted by PL 2011, c. 662, §8, is amended to read:
This bill amends the Freedom of Access Act to make clear that an agency's or official's written notice of denial in response to a request to copy or inspect records may be a statement that the agency or official expects to deny the request in full or in part, but that decision can be made only after reviewing the records subject to the request. The agency or official is required to provide the written response within 5 days of the receipt of the request.
The bill clarifies the procedures for an appeal from a denial of a request to inspect or copy public records. Current law allows the appeal to be filed in any Superior Court; this bill requires the appeal to be filed in the Superior Court for the county in which either the requestor lives or in which the agency has its principal office. Instead of filing an answer to the complaint, the agency or official may file a more informal statement of position explaining the basis for denial within 14 days of the service of the appeal. This bill eliminates the need for a de novo trial and instead requires the Superior Court to conduct a review de novo, taking whatever testimony or other evidence the court determines necessary. The basis for the decision, whether the agency's or official's refusal, denial or failure was not for just and proper cause, is not changed from current law.
The bill also amends the laws governing public access officers by specifically requiring that a request for public records be acknowledged within 5 working days of the receipt of the request. This is consistent with the current acknowledgement deadline in the Maine Revised Statutes, Title 1, section 408-A, subsection 3.