Public Records Access

Guides, Tutorials and Laws related to Access to Public Records, Using the Freedom of Information Act, Requesting Military and Educational Institution Records and 50 State Public Records Act Laws

Federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) – How To Make A Request; Sample Letters; Exempt Records
The Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA (5 U.S.C. 552, as amended), generally provides any person with the statutory right, enforceable in court, to obtain access to Government information in executive branch agency records. This right to access is limited when such information is protected from disclosure by one of FOIA’s nine statutory exemptions.

Federal Freedom of Information Act Officers for Each Government Agency

FOIA Access for Military Records
From the National Archives:The public has access to certain military service information without the veteran’s authorization or that of the next-of-kin (the un-remarried widow or widower, son, daughter, father, mother, brother or sister) of deceased veterans. Examples of information which may be available from Federal (non-archival) Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF) without an unwarranted invasion of privacy include:


Service Number

Dates of Service

Branch of Service

Final Duty Status

Final Rank

Assignments and Geographical Locations

Military Education Level

Awards and decorations (eligibility only, not actual medals)


Transcript of Courts-Martial Trials

Place of entrance and separation

If the veteran is deceased:

Place of birth

Date and geographical location of death

Place of burial

Public Access Laws In Your State
From Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press:
Here’s what state public records and open meetings laws say about access to nongovernmental bodies.

State Public Records Laws
From Ballot Pedia:
State sunshine laws are the laws in each state that govern public access to governmental records. These laws are sometimes known as open records laws or public records laws, and are also collectively referred to as FOIA laws, after the federal Freedom of Information Act.

Guide To Obtaining Public Records and Public Information From State and Public Agencies and Court Systems
From the First Amendment Project:
Freedom of Information Resource Center provides articles and guides intended to help citizens and journalist through the process of obtaining public records and public information from state and public agencies and court systems.

Asked & Answered – A Resource for Researching Access To Government and Free Speech Issues
From First Amendment Coalition:
A searchable database of questions posed to users like you about their rights under public records laws, open government laws, and first amendment safeguards that have been answered by FAC’s attorneys–all first amendment and government access specialists at Bryan Cave, LLP, a national law firm with offices in San Francisco.

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”) – A Guide To Public Access To School and College Records
From SPLC: A guide to the use — and misuse — of FERPA to limit access to important information about students and the schools they attend.

Access to school and university educational, accreditation, personnel, athletic, and crime information
Provided by Student Press Law Center.

Tutorials on California Public Records – Where To Find Them and What’s Available
Public records guides from UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

California Public Record Act Request Responses — audits of state and local agencies for CPRA compliance by CalAware

SearchSystems – Free Public Records
Links to over 55,000 databases by type and location to help you find property, criminal, court, birth, death, marriage, divorce records, licenses, deeds, mortgages, corporate records, business registration, and many other public record resources quickly, easily, and for free.


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