May 14, 2002
I have received your letter concerning your efforts in obtaining records under the Freedom of Information Law from the Town of Evans Justice Court. You asked that I "explain the rules to them."
In this regard, I note that the Freedom of Information Law is applicable to agency records, and that §86(3) defines the term "agency" to include:
"any state or municipal department, board, bureau, division, commission, committee, public authority, public corporation, council, office or other governmental entity performing a governmental or proprietary function for the state or any one or more municipalities thereof, except the judiciary or the state legislature." In turn, §86(1) defines the term "judiciary" to mean:
"the courts of the state, including any municipal or district court, whether or not of record."
Based on the provisions quoted above, the courts and court records are not subject to the Freedom of Information Law. This is not to suggest that court records are not generally available to the public, for other provisions of law (see e.g., Uniform Justice court Act, §2019-a; Judiciary Law, §255) may grant broad public access to those records. Even though other statutes may deal with access to court records, the procedural provisions associated with the Freedom of Information Law (i.e., those involving the designation of a records access officer or the right to appeal a denial) would not ordinarily be applicable . Since you are seeking records from a justice court, it is suggested that a request for records be made to the clerk of the court, citing §2019-a of the Uniform Justice Court Act as the basis for the request.
I hope that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman
cc: Justice Court, Town of Evans