April 28, 2016
The way Ohio Public Records law is written, a member of the public aggrieved by the failure of a public agency to produce requested documents as required by law may sue that public agency for those records, and if he prevails, receive an award of attorneys fees.
Unfortunately, a pair of decisions of the Ohio Supreme Court in January of 2015 effectively gutted Ohio Public Records law by holding that attorneys fees would not be awarded if the agency produced the disputed records before the conclusion of the litigation. You may read those decisions in State ex rel. DiFranco v. South Euclid here and here.
Thus, the Supreme Court has empowered recalcitrant public agencies to ignore and play games with public records requests.
In response, the Ohio legislature is finally grappling with the issue. As today’s Enquirer reports, Senate President Keith Faber is considering a proposal to make quicker and easier Ohio Public Records complaints through the Ohio Court of Claims. Read about that here.
The new process contemplates resolution in 75 days or fewer. Presently, public records cases take two years or longer to resolve through the Ohio courts.
The proposal does not reinstate the attorneys fee awards taken from members of the public by the Ohio Supreme Court, but it should make proceeding pro se more practical.