Q: Why should I make an open records request in writing?
A: While oral requests for public records are valid, there are a number of reasons why submitting a request in writing is often preferable. First, if you make a written request for a record, the authority must respond to your request in writing. Sec. 19.35(4)(b), Stats. If the custodian of the record chooses not to grant your request, it must explain its reasons for the denial in its written response. Sec. 19.35(4)(b), Stats. Second, you cannot file an enforcement action challenging the custodian’s denial of your request without first having written proof of both your request and the response. Sec. 19.37, Stats. Furthermore, in enforcement proceedings, the court will consider only the reasons offered by the custodian in the written response as justification for the denial. See Osborn v. Board of Regents, 2002 WI 83, 16, 254 Wis. 2d 266, 647 N.W.2d 158; Wisconsin Department of Justice, Wisconsin Public Records Law: Wis. Stat. §§ 19.31-19.39 Compliance Outline 10-11 (2005).
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