February 3, 1999
Mr. Jeff Blocker
Morristown, NJ 07963-0900
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. Blocker:
I have received your letter of January 21 in which you referred to an opinion
addressed to you on December 22. Among the points offered in the opinion was my belief
that records maintained by the Nassau County District Attorney fall within the scope of the
New York Freedom of Information Law, rather than the federal Freedom of Information Act,
even though the records are kept in accordance with provisions of federal law. You have
questioned that aspect of the opinion.
In this regard, I direct your attention to a recent decision of the Court of Appeals,
Citizens for Alternatives to Animal Labs, Inc. v. Board of Trustees of the State University of
New York (___ NY2d ___, October 22, 1998). In that case, even though records were kept
pursuant to federal law by a state agency, the Court determined that the records fell within
the coverage of the New York Freedom of Information Law and were subject to rights
conferred by that statute. In short, the fact that records are kept or held by an agency brings
them within the coverage of the Freedom of Information Law, irrespective of "the function
or purpose for which an agency's documents are generated or held." The Court held further
that "FOIL's scope...'is not to be limited based on the [Federal] purpose' for which the
certifications were kept 'or the function to which [they] relate ,' i.e., serving to comply with
a Federal mandate..."
I hope that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman
cc: Tammy J. Smiley, Assistant District Attorney