How to file a request

FOIA Checklist

The following is a checklist* for Freedom of Information Act requests, provided by the Michigan Legislature.

  1. Make sure you are addressing the correspondence to the correct department. For example, if you are looking for information about road repairs, address the streets department.
  2. Many organizations have a Freedom of Information Act Administrator. Address the correspondence to that person.
  3. Describe the information requested in detail so that it can be located.
  4. Describe the subject matter of the documents requested and, if possible, the date the documents were created.
  5. Advise the department that you are requesting documents pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act and refer to the Act as MCL 15.231 et seq.

Use of the checklist is suggested, not mandated. For example, it is not necessary to cite the Freedom of Information Act statute when making a request. Requests and responses to requests are governed by the specific language of the Freedom of Information Act, not by the checklist. You should read the statute before taking advice from a wiki page.

Once you make the FOIA request, there's certain bureaucratic machinery that kicks in to ensure that the institution is responding to the letter of the statute.

Sample letter

 

Your Name
Address
734-555-1212

October 16, 2008

City of Ann Arbor

RECORDS REQUEST

Dear Records Request Officer:

Pursuant to the state open records act, I request access to and copies
of [fill in docs].

These documents are probably produced or held by the [department name] 
and were probably created [date or date range]. 

[If you want digital documents] I am specifically requesting these 
documents in the digital format the City uses to store them (for example, 
Word, PDF, or Excel documents.) [I am not requesting scanned copies of 
paper files.]

I am willing to pay up to $[fill in amount] for costs associated with
compliance with this request. It is my expectation, however, that all
fees associated with this request be waived on the grounds that the
information obtained is not for purposes of a commercial venture, and
is in the public interest.

If my request is denied in whole or part, I ask that you justify all
deletions by reference to specific exemptions of the act.
Thank you for your assistance.

Sincerely,

 

Background on the FOIA process

Plenty, if used as postage on a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The scope of information available to the public, upon request, is nothing less than staggering. The FOIA is a tremendous tool for anyone involved in legal matters with local, state, or federal government. Under Michigan and federal FOIA laws, anyone can request information, and obtain costs and attorney fees if the government fails to produce the goods. Any fourth grader, working on a project for school, has a legal right to ask the Board of Pharmacy for a copy of the local druggist’s college transcript. No reason need be given, except when asking for certain internal government memorandums. If information is kept in any type of records, and should be public information, it must be provided, no matter what the requester’s motive.

Comments on filing with specific local organizations

University of Michigan

http://www.vpcomm.umich.edu/foia.html

A request must be in writing (which includes e-mail and fax). The University has five business days in which to respond, although the response period can be extended by the FOIA Officer up to an additional 10 business days.

Ann Arbor Police Department

http://a2gov.org/government/safetyservices/Police/Pages/Records.aspx

City of Ann Arbor

The FOIA coordinator is the city clerk, [email protected] Mention in your the most relevant City staff member who would have the records, if you know who that might be.

Ann Arbor District Library

See http://www.aadl.org/aboutus/circulation

It is the policy of the Ann Arbor District Library to preserve the confidentiality of the registration records of its patrons to the fullest extend permitted by law. To that end, the registration records of the library shall be released or disclosed only as provided herein.

Ann Arbor Public Schools

Barbara Tebbutt is FOIA coordinator. AAPS FOIA procedures.

City of Ypsilanti

Ypsilanti FOIA info.

History and litigation

  • Askins v Ann Arbor DDA. The court found in case 14-1145-CZ that the defendant violated the Open Meetings Act by failing to keep minutes of its Executive Committee and failing to make those minutes public, and by making salary decisions for its Executive Director that did not comply with the Act. It further found that the DDA violated the Freedom of Information Act by redacting information that is not private or protected under the Act with respect to e-mail addresses used by board members for DDA communications. It further found that the DDA failed to publish its expenses monthly as required by the Downtown Development Authority Enabling Act.
  • Zeeff v City of Ann Arbor

Decision of court in suit seeking in suit seeking copies of computerized real estate assessment records. Records ordered to be released. Attorneys' fees of $25,000 awarded.

Michigan courts have rendered decisions which, when "reported", become precedent and are the law of the state until changed by a higher court or by the Legislature. The following list contains decisions of Michigan’s appellate and Supreme courts regarding FOIA. Court opinions may be obtained from law libraries or from the courts of record at a nominal fee.