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Mississippi Open Records Explainer

Last Updated: March 2024



Sample Annotated Request


1. What is the Mississippi Public Records Act of 1983 (MPRA)?

The MPRA is a state law that was passed in 1983 with the intention of giving access to public requests of "records of all public bodies of government." The official citation to the law is Miss. Code § 25-61 and the full language can be found online here:

2. Who can make a request?

  • “Any person” can request public records. This means you do not need to be a state resident, a certain age, or a U.S. citizen to request records under the MPRA.[i]
  • 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?

  • You do not need to have a specific reason to request most public records. However, some types of records from certain agencies do require some type of reason to be given in order to file the request. For example, requests for records from the Mississippi Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, are limited to those with a "legitimate and tangible interest."[ii] This means it is a good idea to see if the agency you’re requesting information from provides any guidance about this on their website or elsewhere.

Practice Tip: Providing a purpose for your request can be helpful in potentially getting discounts on fees from certain agencies as well.

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

  • Many types of government agencies big and small are covered by the MPRA. The MPRA uses the term “‘public body” to refer to the many different parts of the government you can request records from, for example police departments, mayors’ offices, or very specific agencies like the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. [iii]

  • The Mississippi legislature is also subject to the MPRA, but has “the right to determine the rules of its own proceedings and to regulate public access to its records”—a vague provision that may allow the Legislature to dodge public records requests it prefers not to respond to.[iv] However, don’t let this stop you from trying to file a request to the legislature!

  • State court filings are also considered public records, unless exempted by a different statute or sealed by court order. The Mississippi Supreme Court has also adopted an administrative order concerning access to the judiciary’s public records.

5. What types of records can you request?

  • The MPRA defines “public records” to mean a broad range of materials, both print and electronic, from including emails, books, maps, films, and many other types of records.[v]

  • While certain kinds of records may be “exempt” (see below), in 2006 a court ruled that “Any doubt about whether records should be disclosed should be resolved in favor of disclosure.”[vi]

Practice Tip: Include the quote from the court case in (b) above in your request as a reminder to agencies.

Practice Tip: We recommend you be creative in what kinds of records you might want to request, including digital and electronic records.

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

  • Most exemptions in the MPRA are discretionary, meaning that an agency is not mandated to exempt something and they can always choose to provide it to you.

  • Some important exempt records to note are:

    • Personnel records, like individual employee records, are exempt
    • Attorney work product is exempt
    • Police investigative records are mostly exempt except for the “incident report.” However, police have discretion to release investigative records.
    • Private businesses that contract with the state can exempt certain types of records by claiming they are “trade secrets”
    • Most criminal history records are exempt
  • Other state laws exempt records developed “among judges and their aides,” and among juries concerning judicial decisions.[vii]

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.

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

  • Each public body may establish and collect reasonable fees that do not exceed the actual cost of finding and producing the requested records. Fees are collected before a request is fulfilled.

  • The Mississippi Ethics Commission has published guidance on fees which recommends a maximum $0.15 per page charge for photocopies.[viii] Agencies can also charge for staff time spent searching for and processing records.

  • The MPRA does not specifically support asking for a waiver or discount on fees, but public bodies have discretion as to whether to impose fees.

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

8. How and where do you make a request?

  • How to make a request will probably differ slightly depending on where you are sending your request.

  • Under the law, each public body or state agency can adopt its own procedures “concerning the cost, time, place and method of access” to its public records.[ix] Some state agencies have an online request form such as MDEQ. Others provide a contact email or fax number such as MDOC.

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 the agency has provided written procedures for how to file a request, then those procedures allow the agency to set a maximum of seven working days after receiving a request to produce or deny production of a public record. Make sure to check what the specific agency’s procedures say.[x]

  • If the agency has not adopted written procedures for filing a request, then you have the right to inspect the agency’s public records within one working day after making a written request.

  • If the agency or public body you’ve sent your request to cannot produce the requested records within seven working days, it must notify the requester in writing as to the reasons for the delay. Ultimately, a public body has at most 14 working days from receipt of a request to produce the required documents, unless the parties mutually agree to an extension.[xi]

  • A public body’s failure to timely respond to a public records request is a violation of the MPRA.

  • The MRPA provides that a public body “shall provide a copy of the record in the format requested if the public body maintains the record in that format.”[xii] This means, for example, that if you are requesting a document that is only available on paper, the agency is not obligated to have it emailed to you as a PDF file. However, often you can talk to the agency about finding other ways for them to produce records to you.

10. What if the agency denies your request?

  • If an agency denies your request, it must be in writing and state the exemption(s) the public body relied on for denying the request.[xiii]

  • A requester can contest a public body’s denial or delay in responding to a public records request by:

  • First, see if the agency where you’ve filed your request has a written appeals process. Agency appeals processes may differ depending on the agency.

  • Next after filing your appeal, or if the agency does not have an appeals process, you can file a complaint with the Mississippi Ethics Commission. If you file a complaint with the Ethics Commission, the agency has fourteen days to respond, after which the Commission can dismiss or hear the case. The Commission can resolve controversies over denials, delays, and fees, among other relevant issues, and can issue penalties.

  • Finally, you can file a suit in chancery court. You can sue in state chancery court to enforce or appeal an Ethics Commission order, or to bypass the Ethics Commission altogether to litigate a denial or delay. Administrative exhaustion is not required which means you do not need to wait to appeal to the Ethics Commission or file an appeal with the agency before going to court.

  • The MPRA does not specify a time period in which you must file a lawsuit, so the general three-year statute of limitations most likely applies.

Practice Tip: A good way to know about the appeals process is to make sure to ask for a copy of the specific agency’s open-records policy when you file your request.


[i] Miss. Code § 25-61-5

[ii] Miss. Code § 41-57-2

[iii] Miss. Code § 25-61-3(a)

[iv] Miss. Code § 25-61-17

[v] Miss. Code § 25-61-3(b)

[vi] Harrison County Development Comm’n v. Kinney, 920 So.2d 497, 502 (Miss. Ct. App. 2006)

[vii] Miss. Code § 9-1-38 and § 13-5-97

[viii] Op. R.-16-007

[ix] Miss. Code § 25-61-5(1)

[x] Miss. Code § 25-61-5(1)(a)

[xi] Miss. Code § 25-61-5(1)(b)

[xii] Miss. Code § 25-61-10(2)

[xiii] Miss. Code § 25-61-5(3)