How relevant is a state’s open records law?

I love cross-state rankings of FOIA laws, like the study produced by the Citizen Access Project. Comparing the statutes in one state to the statues in another is frequently intriquing and informative.

At the end of the day, though, when it comes to getting actual public documents, very often it is the attitude of the public agency you want the records from that matters, not the law in your state.

Louisiana has a reasonably good law, but how much does tha matter when an official resists, obstructs and ignores the law?

Even if the state has an enforcement mechanism, it’s still a lot of extra work for a citizen or journalist to go through to drag records out of a recalcitrant agency. I wholeheartedly support enforcement mechanisms and ombudsmen, but even where they exist, in many cases, local agencies are playing a waiting game with requestors–hoping that the requestor’s time, patience and interest in the records will wear out as they have to make their way through layers of red tape and complaints.


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