As the sun comes out again this Spring, bring your own sunshine to the workings of your state and local governments.

It’s Sunshine Week, meaning it’s time—although isn’t it always?—to show our appreciation for the rules and laws that keep government records and meetings in public view. So, what can you do to join the celebration and make sure the workings of your government see the light of day?

In lieu of balloons and confetti, we at the ACLU of Ohio are demonstrating our enthusiasm with the release of our updated guide for requesting public records: Keep an Eye on Your Government: The Activist’s How-to-Guide.

This Guide contains comprehensive but accessible answers to the major questions that come up when you’re seeking information from your government and courts, including:

  • What is a public record?
    • Public records must meet all of the following criteria: they have information stored on a fixed medium (paper, computer, etc.); they are created, received, or sent under the jurisdiction of a public office; and they document the organization, functions, procedures, policies, operations, decisions, or other activities of the office.
  • What isn’t a public record?
    • You’ll want to check and see if the information you’re seeking is on a list of records that are excluded from public access in our public records laws. This may include things like active law enforcement investigations or private attorney notes. You can find that list following the public record definition in R.C. 149.43(A)(1).
  • Who can request public records and how are records requested?
    • You, yes you! Check out our new Guide for how-to instructions as well as sample requests to guide you along the way.
  • What do I do about court records?
    • Court records are made available pursuant to what are called the Rules of Superintendence. You can find more information about this in our Guide.
  • What can I do if my request is denied?
    • When records requests are denied, your options are determined by what type of records you requested. These options are generally limited to court actions, but don’t let this deter you from getting the information you need to keep an eye on your government.

As the sun comes out again this Spring, bring your own sunshine to the workings of your state and local governments. Just as the sprouts that are springing up in our gardens, our government will give us better produce with lots of light!

For more, watch our video below:

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