Please note that the AGO cannot offer legal advice or render legal opinions about the public records law to members of the public. G.L. c. 12, §§ 3, 6, and 9. If you would like general information about the public records law, or wish to appeal the AGO’s response to your public records request, please contact the Public Records Division of the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Office.
Helpful statutes: The Massachusetts Public Records Law, G.L. c. 66, § 10, describes the process for submitting and responding to public records requests. G.L. c. 4, § 7, cl. 26 defines “public records” and outlines exemptions that may apply to requested records. Please note that there are other statutes which also address public records.
Applicable regulations: The Public Records Law authorizes the Supervisor of Records, who is appointed by the Secretary of the Commonwealth, to issue regulations about public records access. Included in those regulations, 950 CMR 32.00 et seq is general information about the public records process, as well as information on records access, fees, appeals, and other matters.
Secretary of the Commonwealth Public Records Division: The webpage for the Public Records Division of the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Office has additional information and resources concerning the public records process in Massachusetts.
General guidance for public records requests
- You can submit a public records request to the AGO electronically, by mail, or in person. The easiest way to do so is by using this form.
- The AGO can only respond to requests seeking AGO records and cannot respond to requests for records held by other entities. Each state agency and municipality has a Records Access Officer who can assist with submitting public records requests.
- Asking a question does not qualify as a public records request. A public records request seeks “records” that already exist, usually in writing, and/or in one of the formats defined in G.L. c. 4, § 7, cl. 26. The AGO is not required to create a record in response to a public records request.
- Please be as specific as possible when describing the records being requested. If applicable, please include relevant date ranges and any other information that may help the AGO to identity the records that are being requested.
- In most cases, the AGO will provide the first 4 hours of labor required to respond to your request at no charge. Fees may be assessed for additional labor or for providing hardcopies of records.
- The AGO’s Records Access Officer and her staff are able to assist you in crafting your public records request, and can provide suggestions about how to minimize the cost of responding.
- Whether or not an AGO record is a “public record” depends on a variety of circumstances, some of which may vary by context. If the AGO withholds records or portions of records that are responsive to your request, you may either appeal to the Supervisor of Records following the procedure set forth in 950 CMR 32.08 or seek relief in Superior Court