Q: Is the subject of the record always entitled to notice of the open records request under section 19.356, Stats.? If the record subject is entitled to notice, then how long will it take to get the record?
A: No, the subject of a public record is entitled to notice of a request only in certain situations, and generally these situations involve specific records pertaining to public employees. Section 19.356(2), Stats., provides that a custodian must notify the subject of a record in three circumstances: (1) when the requested record is an employee disciplinary record maintained by the authority; (2) when the record was obtained by the authority through a subpoena or search warrant; or (3) when the employee’s record was prepared by an employer other than an authority. The notice procedure allows the record subject in these circumstances to initiate a court action to prevent release of the record. Sec. 19.356(4), Stats.
Section 19.356, Stats., established strict guidelines regarding the amount of time allowed to complete the notice and judicial review requirements. The custodian of the record must give the record subject written notice within 3 days after making the decision to permit access. The subject of the record must then provide written notice to the custodian of his or her intent to initiate court action within 5 days of receiving the notice. Sec. 19.356(3) Stats., The court action, furthermore, must be initiated within 10 days of the notice. Sec. 19.356(4), Stats. All of these time periods exclude weekends and holidays. The statute requires the trial court to issue a decision within 10 days of the filing of the complaint unless there is cause for an extension, and then the court shall issue a decision within 30 days. Sec. 19.356(7), Stats. On appeal, the statute requires that the court give these cases priority.
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