May 12, 1999
Mr. Mark Roddy
Gowanda Correctional Facility
P.O. Box 311
Gowanda, NY 14070-0311
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. Roddy:
I have received your letter of April 16 in which you sought assistance in obtaining
various court records under the Freedom of Information Law.
In this regard, it is emphasized 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
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. 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.
It is suggested that you resubmit your request to the clerk of the court, citing an
applicable provision of law as the basis for your request.
I hope that the foregoing serves to clarify your understanding of the matter and that
I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman