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Question:

What is a "Public Record"?
Answer:

There is no definition of what constitutes a “public record” in the constitution so it is totally a legislative prerogative as to what is included or excluded by that term. Thus, there are three basic definitions. 

LSA-R.S. 44:1A (2) (a) provides the definition of “public records” and the definition is rather detailed and lengthy. Suffice it to say that any documentary materials without regard to their physical form or characteristics, which were used, are being used, or which were retained for use by a “Public Body” are public records for the purposes of Title 44 Chapter 1. So the definition is a very broad definition. 

The Louisiana Supreme Court in Title Research Corp. V. Rausch 450 So.2d 933, 937 (La. 1984) opined:  

The legislature, by the public records statutes, sought to guarantee, in the most expansive and unrestricted way possible, the right of the public to inspect and reproduce those records which the laws deem to be public. There was no intent on the part of the legislatures to qualify, in any way, the right of access. [Citations omitted]. As with the constitutional provision, the statute should be construed liberally, and any doubt must be resolved in favor of the right of access. 

Consistent with this policy, courts have held that exemptions must be strictly construed. Denox v. Berthel, 682 So.2d 300, (1996). 

“Public Body”, similarly to “Public Records”, also is a lengthy definition (LSA-R.S. 44:1A (1)) and it is sufficiently broad to include all state and local governmental entities. 

In order to impose individual responsibility for the production of a public record the law provides that a “custodian” is the person who heads the public body, or a representative specifically designated by the head of the public body. (LSA-R.S. 44:1A (3)) If there is no designated custodian the public agency head is the “custodian” by default.

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