October 19, 1998
Mr. Bernard Tartasky
318 Beach 85 St.
Rockaway, NY 11693
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
Dear Mr. Tartasky:
I have received your letter of October 2. You asked how you might obtain a copy of
a judge's notes in a particular case.
In this regard, the Freedom of Information Law, the statute within the advisory
jurisdiction of the Committee on Open Government, is applicable to agency records. Section
86(3) of that statute 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
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., Judiciary Law, §255)
may grant broad public access to those records. It is recommended that a request for court
records be directed to the clerk of the court in which the proceeding was conducted.
While the nature of the records of your interest is not entirely clear, I point out that
it has been held that a judge's personal notes are generally not accessible to the public [see
Herald Companies v. Town of Geddes, 470 NYS2d 81 (1983)].
I hope that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman