Making a Request for Public Records in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Public Records Law (Law), found at Chapter 66, Section 10 of the Massachusetts General Laws, applies to records made or received by a Massachusetts agency or municipality. Unless the requested records fall under an exemption to the Law, the responsive documents must be made available to a requester. A list of exemptions may be found at Chapter 4, Section 7(26) of the Massachusetts General Laws.

Beginning January 1, 2017, the updated Public Records Law requires every agency and municipality to designate a Records Access Officer (RAO) to assist requesters in obtaining public records. Requests for public records may be made to the RAO.

The Division of Public Records is not a warehouse for government records.The only records kept in the Division are those that are essential to the business operations of the Division. A requester must, therefore, seek records directly from the entity that created or received them.

While requests for records may be made verbally, in person, it is preferable to make the request in writing to reduce confusion. A copy of the written request is required to file an appeal with the Supervisor of Records.

Anyone may request records directly from RAO. The Law does not require any specific format for making a public records request, but the sample below may be helpful. It is recommended that your request contain the following information:

Date request mailed

[Records Access Officer
Name of Municipality or Agency
Address of Municipality or Agency
City, State, Zip Code]

Re: Massachusetts Public Records Request

Dear _______:

This is a request under the Massachusetts Public Records Law (M. G. L. Chapter 66, Section 10). I am requesting that I be provided a copy of the following records:

[Please include a detailed description of the information you are seeking.]

I recognize that you may charge reasonable costs for copies, as well as for personnel time needed to comply with this request.

The Public Records Law requires you to provide me with a written response within 10 business days. If you cannot comply with my request, you are statutorily required to provide an explanation in writing.

Sincerely,

Your Name
Contact Information (address, email, telephone)

If you do not receive a satisfactory response, you may appeal to the Supervisor of Records. See the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Public Records Division’s website, Appealing a Denial of Access to Public Records in Massachusetts for more information. You may also seek judicial review by commencing a civil action in superior court under G.L. c. 66, §10A(c).

For additional information about making a request or filing an appeal, see 950 CMR 32.08 (1) or refer to the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Public Records Division publication, A Guide to the Massachusetts Public Records Law (PDF).