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Louisiana Open Records Explainer

Last Updated: March 2024



Sample Annotated Request


1. What is the Public Records Law?

Louisiana’s Public Records Law (PRL) is a state law, starting at Section 44:1 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes,[i] that gives members of the public the right to access the records of any “public body” in the state. The right to “examine public documents” is also enshrined in the Louisiana Constitution.[ii]

2. Who can make a public records request?

  • Under the PRL, any adult person can inspect, copy, or reproduce any public record. The requester does not need to be a Louisiana resident.[iii] However, many local agencies may respond more quickly if the request comes from a resident of Louisiana.

  • Individuals who are incarcerated on a felony conviction and have exhausted their appeals of their conviction may only request records on “grounds upon which the individual could file for post-conviction relief.”[iv] However, that limitation does not apply to the incarcerated individual’s attorney.

  • Both individuals and entities (like a business or a non-profit organization) can make open records requests.

3. Do you need to include an explanation of why you are filing your request?

  • Generally, requests can be made for any reason. A records custodian may only ask for the requester’s age and identification, as well as determine whether the requester is an incarcerated individual who is subject to the limitation explained above.[v]

Practice Tip: Providing a purpose for your request can be helpful in potentially getting discounts on fees from certain agencies. It can also be useful if you are using your request for public advocacy.

4. Which government officials or agencies can you request records from?

  • All “public bodies” in Louisiana are subject to the PRL, including executive, legislative, and judicial-branch agencies, departments, offices, boards, committees, etc. at the state, parish, and municipal levels.[vi]

  • Public or quasi-public nonprofit corporations “designated as an entity to perform a governmental or proprietary function” are also subject to the PRL.[vii]

  • Records of private entities are public records if they pertain to the private entity’s performance of a government function or receipt and expenditure of state public funds. For example, the Louisiana Supreme Court determined in one case that a private animal welfare organization that provided animal control services to the city of New Orleans and received city funds was required to comply with the PRL.[viii]

5. What types of records can you request?

  • The scope of records covered by the PRL is all inclusive. This specifically includes electronic records.[ix]

Practice Tip: Get creative with the types of records you request—emails, text messages, maps, videos—and the agencies you request them from.

6. What types of records are “exempt” from being disclosed to you?

  • All exemptions to the PRL must be provided by statute or in the state constitution.[x] Statutory exemptions can be found within sections of the PRL[xi] and scattered throughout other Louisiana state laws.

Practice Tip: When making an open records request, requesters should ask the agency to state whether they are withholding any records they claim are exempt, specify which exemptions they claim apply, and release any non-exempt portions of records that contain both exempt and non-exempt materials. Remind agencies in your request that courts have said they must “narrowly construe” any exemptions.

7. What is the cost? Can you get a fee waiver?

  • Public bodies cannot charge a fee for you to examine a public record during regular business hours or other authorized times.[xii]

  • A reasonable fee may be charged to compensate the custodian outside of regular hours, or for making copies or transmitting electronic copies. A public body can also ask a court to impose, at its discretion, a fee for the time and expense incurred to examine or review the requested records to determine whether they are subject to disclosure.[xiii]

  • State agencies are required to charge a standard amount for copies.[xiv]

  • Fee waivers or reductions are available for indigent (low income) persons, and in cases where the custodian determines that the records will be used for a public purpose, including for use in a hearing before any governmental regulatory commission.[xv]

Practice Tip: We suggest always asking for a full waiver of fees if your request is in the “public interest” and not made for any commercial or monetary gain.

8. How and where do you make a request?

  • Requests can be submitted in writing or verbally to the relevant public records custodian for an agency. Some agencies have an online request form or portal on their website.

Practice Tip: It is best to confirm the preferred method of submission directly with the agency by checking their website or speaking with a staff person prior to submitting a request.

9. What is the process and timeline once a request is submitted?

  • If a public record is not exempt and is immediately available, it must be “immediately presented” to the requester. If the record is not immediately available, the custodian must notify the requester in writing and state a time within three business days to make the record available for inspection.[xvi]

  • The custodian must notify the requester in writing within five business days of any determination that a requested record is exempt, along with the basis for the exemption.[xvii]

  • The PRL does not specify the format (for example, paper copies or digital) in which records must be produced.

Practice Tip: As a best practice, requesters should specify the desired format for documents to be delivered, understanding that the agency may not need to comply.

10. What if the agency denies my request?

  • Unlike the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and some other state open records law, there is no administrative appeals process under the PRL.

  • Instead, a requester can file a lawsuit to challenge a denial (including a delayed response longer than five business days) in state district court for the parish in which the custodian’s office is located. Only the person or entity who made the request can file the lawsuit. Lawsuits to enforce the PRL are given priority over other cases on the court’s docket.[xviii]

Additional Resources


[i] La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 44:1 et seq.

[ii] La. Const. Art. XII, § 3.

[iii] La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 44:31(B).

[iv] Id. § 44:31.1.

[v] Id. §§ 44:32, 44:31.1.

[vi] See id. § 44:1 (A)(1) (defining public body).

[vii] Id.

[viii] New Orleans Bulldog Soc'y v. Louisiana Soc'y for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 2016-1809 (La. 2017)

[ix] La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 44:1.

[x] Id. § 44:4.1(A).

[xi] See, e.g., id. §§ 44:2 (creating exception for records involved in legislative investigations), 44:11 (certain confidential personnel records of public employees), 44:19 (coroner records).

[xii] See id. § 44:32(A), (C).

[xiii] Id. 44:32(C).

[xiv] Id.

[xv] Id.

[xvi] Id. § 44:33(B)(1).

[xvii] Id. § 44:35(A).

[xviii] Id. § 44:35(C).