June 17, 1997
Mr. Jose Garcia
Shawangunk Correctional Facility
P.O. Box 700
Wallkill, NY 12589-0700
The staff of the Committee on Open Government is authorized to
issue advisory opinions. The ensuing staff advisory opinion is
based solely upon the information presented in your correspondence.
Dear Mr. Garcia:
I have received your letter of May 13 in which you requested
general information concerning the Freedom of Information Law. In
addition, you asked "if there is any statutory law or decisional
that may authorize [you] to give permission to a member of [your]
family to act in [your] behalf in going personally to a state
agency and review and acquire copies of records pertaining to [you]
under the provision of the Freedom of Information Law."
In this regard, first, enclosed are copies of the Freedom of
Information Law and "Your Right to Know", which describes that
statute and includes a sample letter of request.
Second, as a general matter, the Freedom of Information Law is
based upon a presumption of access. Stated differently, all
records of an agency are available, except to the extent that
records or portions thereof fall within one or more grounds for
denial appearing in §87(2)(a) through (i) of the Law.
Section 87(2)(b) permits an agency to withhold records or
portions thereof when disclosure would result in "an unwarranted
invasion of personal privacy." Assuming that no other ground for
denial is applicable, I do not believe that a request made by the
subject of a request for records pertaining to him, or by his
representative who has obtained a written release authorizing
disclosure to the representative, could be denied on the basis of
§87(2)(b). As stated in §89(2)(c) of the Freedom of Information
"Unless otherwise provided by this article,
disclosure shall not be construed to
constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal
privacy pursuant to paragraphs (a) and (b) of
ii. when the person to whom a record pertains
consents in writing to disclosure..."
To the extent that persons other than the applicant for
records are identified in the records, there may be privacy
considerations that arise relative to those individuals. In such
situations, perhaps identifying details or certain portions of
records might be deleted on the ground that disclosure would result
in an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy with respect to
those third parties.
I hope that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman