Fix our broken public records law

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Why does freedom of information matter? Because surveillance is conducted in secret. Inequality thrives in the shadows. Free speech withers when basic facts are hidden.

The Massachusetts public records law is broken. Journalists, concerned citizens, and others with a need—and right—to know how our government is working often can't get that information. The costs are too high, delay and obstruction are standard operating procedure, and there's no way to hold record-keepers accountable.

Attend the hearing on public records reform:
Tuesday, May 26, 11am - 1pm
Massachusetts State House
Room B-1

Read our fact sheet, and learn more:

Public records FAIL

Our public records law hasn't been substantially updated since 1973. It's time to bring it into the 21st century.

Take action!


The ACLU of Massachusetts, together with allies in the Massachusetts Freedom of Information Alliance (MassFOIA), urge the state legislature to swiftly pass reforms to our public records law to increase access to public information.

An Act to Improve Access to Public Records, filed by Rep. Peter Kocot (H.2772) & Sen. Lewis (S.1676) would:

• Create accountability by directing courts to award attorney's fees when agencies unlawfully deny access to public information. The overwhelming majority of states (46 of them, plus the federal government) have evened the scales of justice by allowing or requiring attorney's fees in various circumstances—a proven incentive against obstruction and in favor of obeying the law in the first place.

• Ensure that public records in electronic form, such as emails and spreadsheets, are provided electronically instead of printed out on paper. This will save paper, time, and money all around.

• Make records affordable, with only nominal fees that reflect the actual costs of the records and do not inhibit access. Because public information should be accessible to ordinary members of the public, not only to the wealthy.

• Streamline the access process by designating "records access officers" in state agencies to facilitate requests. Assigning a point person reduces bureaucratic complexity for agencies and records-seekers alike.


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Related Cases

ACLU of Massachusetts v. North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council
A state lawsuit seeking the release of documents about the North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council's SWAT team and other military-style tactics. NEMLEC has claimed that it is a private entity, not subject to the Massachusetts public records law.

ACLU of Massachusetts v. FBI
Our federal lawsuit seeks the release of documents about the Commonwealth's participation in secretive federal-state-local teams known as "Joint Terrorism Task Forces," and about Ibragim Todashev, the associate of Tamerlan Tsarnaev killed in May 2013 while being interrogated by a Boston FBI agent and two Massachusetts State Police officers.