Taylor, MI asked in Civil Rights, Constitutional Law and Gov & Administrative Law for Michigan

Q: How may I determine that the records I seek fall under FOIA?

The vital records department has rejected every FOIA request I submitted. I'm perturbed about what records I may FOIA.

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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A: Here are some tips for determining if records fall under Michigan's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and can be requested:

- Review which public records are subject to disclosure under FOIA. This includes records prepared, owned, used, possessed, or retained by a public body in the performance of an official function.

- Note that some records or portions of records may be exempt from disclosure, such as certain personal privacy information, security-related records, attorney-client privileged information, and records subject to other state or federal statutes that prohibit disclosure.

- FOIA applies to state, county, city, township, village, school district, university, or other public bodies in Michigan. So check that the department or agency you are requesting records from meets the definition of a public body.

- Think about what public purpose the records may serve to see if they fall under FOIA. The law favors public disclosure related to the conduct of government or the performance of a governmental function.

- If your request was denied based on an exemption, ask what specific exemption is being cited to withhold all or part of the records. You can decide whether you agree the exemption applies.

- If you still have trouble or get denials that don't seem proper under the law, you can get advice from an attorney knowledgeable in FOIA or file an appeal with the public body. Reach out to the FOIA coordinator of that agency in writing.

The key is determining if the records relate to public functions or interest and if any exemptions legitimately apply. Consult FOIA resources in Michigan for more on your rights to request records.

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