April 17, 2000
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
I have received your letter of January 17 in which you sought assistance in obtaining
records from the Mt. Morris Village Court.
In this regard, the provisions upon which you relied in seeking the records are not
applicable. The federal Freedom of Information and Privacy Acts (5USC §§552 and 552a)
apply only to federal agencies. Similarly, the New York 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., 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