Massachusetts law about freedom of information and public records

Laws, regulations, cases, and web sources on freedom of information and public records law.

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Table of Contents

Best bet the national FOIA portal
A great place to start for federal Freedom of Information Act requests. This site includes information and forms to help you submit FOIA requests. Also includes contact information for FOIA officers and liaisons at government agencies.

Massachusetts laws

MGL c.4, § 7 cl. 26 Definition of public records

MGL c.66 Public records

  • § 10B Permits disclosure of public employees' personal email addresses and phone numbers to unions in certain circumstances

MGL c.66A Fair information practices act

Massachusetts regulations and guidelines

940 CMR 11 Fair information practices act

950 CMR 32 Public records access regulations

950 CMR 33 Information practices regulations

Federal laws

5 USC § 552 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)


Fully automated fill-in-the-blanks FOI letter generator, from the Student Press Law Center.

Making a request for public records, Mass. Secretary of the Commonwealth.
Includes a sample letter.

Selected cases

Record retention schedules

MGL c.66, § 8 Preservation of certain books, papers and records; destruction of certain original instruments
Law gives the timeline for keeping state, county, city and town records.

Massachusetts records retention schedules, Mass. Secretary of the Commonwealth.
Searchable database of municipal and statewide records retention schedules, providing detailed guidance in the storage and disposal of records.

Massachusetts Trial Court record retention schedule, Administrative Office of the Trial Court.
Outlines requirements for each court department.

Web sources

Police Records

Internal affairs and personnel records, SPR bulletin 3-04
Documents in an internal affairs investigation record are different from ordinary evaluation or discipline determinations. They are not typically not exempt from public records law as personnel information.

Other Public Records

Electronic records management guidelines, Supervisor of Public Records, 2011.
Includes information on e-mail retention and other electronic records.

Executive Order 13392: Improving agency disclosure of information, President George W. Bush, December 14, 2005.

Freedom of information services, The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
Tons of advice and information, including a "Fully-Automated Fill-in-the-Blanks FOI Letter Generator," for us by both the press and public.

Massachusetts government public records requests portal
Select the organization you want to make a Public Records Request from.

Massachusetts public notices,
Provides online access to public notice advertisements from nearly 100 newspapers throughout Massachusetts. Notices include government contracts, foreclosures, unclaimed property, community information and more. Clear search interface. Users can also choose to sign up for email notices of just the types of notices that interest them.

Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth, Public Records Division, including: 

Newsgathering in Massachusetts, Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Harvard Law School, May 2013.
Covers open meetings, public records law, access to courts and court records, recording public officials and more, with extensive footnotes to primary law sources.

Segregating and marking documents for release in accordance with the Open Government Act, U.S. Dept. of Justice.
Provides guidance for government officials in how to comply with the Open Government Act's requirement "that when marking documents to indicate the amount of information deleted, and the location of that deletion, agencies should also indicate the exemption being asserted."

Print sources

Administrative law, Matthew Bender, Part III: Public Information.

Administrative law and practice, 2nd ed. (Mass Practice v.39), Thomson Reuters, 2016 with supplement. Chapters 16 and 18.

Bender’s forms of discovery, volume 16, chapter 14 “Freedom of information law and discovery.”

Freedom of information and public records law in Massachusetts, 4th ed., MCLE, 2015.

Guidebook to the Freedom of Information and Privacy Acts, West, loose-leaf.

“Litigation Under Freedom of Information Act,” 110 AmJur Trials 367.

Massachusetts administrative law and practice, LexisNexis Practice Guide. Annual. Chapter 5, 6. 

Municipal law and practice, 5th ed. (Mass Practice v.18), Thomson/West, 2006 with supplement. Chapter 8.

Public records and open meeting law, MCLE, 2020.

"State Freedom of Information Act Requests: Right to Receive Information in Particular Medium or Format," 86 ALR4th 786.

Contact for Massachusetts law about freedom of information and public records

Last updated: May 22, 2023

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