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Public Records Resources

Additional Information

What is a public record?
Ohio Revised Code 149.43 (A) defines a public record as those records kept by any public office, including, but not limited to:
  • the state
  • a county
  • a city
  • a village
  • a township
  • school district units
  • records pertaining to the delivery of educational services by an alternative school in this state kept by the nonprofit or for-profit entity operating the alternative school. Ohio Revised Code 3313.533.
That same statute provides a list of records that the Ohio legislature has specifically deemed not public records. In addition, the Courts in Ohio have also designated certain records as not public records. Despite these exceptions, the general rule in Ohio is that records kept by a public agency in the normal course of business are public records.
How do I request a public record?
While the law in Ohio allows you to ask for a public record in a variety of ways, by far the most effective method is to request it in writing. Begin by writing down a list of the information you want. Then prepare a letter or email to the public agency. If you don’t know the addressee, contact the public agency’s main office and request the contact information for the employee who’s responsible for public records. It’s helpful if your correspondence includes your name and address, the date, and a daytime phone number. This makes it easy for individuals at the public agency to contact you if they have any questions. Although you’re not required to submit your request on a specific form, the Court of Claims does provide a sample request form  for you to use. Please use sufficient detail to describe the information you need, so the public body can find the requested record(s). Providing as much information about the subject matter as possible helps to speed up the search process. However, it’s not necessary to specifically and accurately describe the record(s) or use the same name the public agency uses. As long as the public agency understands what you’re requesting, it must release that information (unless there is a legal exception).
The public agency says they do not know what I’m asking for. Why does that matter?
If your request is overly broad or hard to understand, the agency can deny your request. Ohio Revised Code 149.43 (B)(2) states:
“If a requester makes an ambiguous or overly broad request or has difficulty in making a request for copies or inspection of public records under this section such that the public office or the person responsible for the requested public record cannot reasonably identify what public records are being requested, the public office or the person responsible for the requested public record may deny the request but shall provide the requester with an opportunity to revise the request by informing the requester of the manner in which records are maintained by the public office and accessed in the ordinary course of the public office’s or person’s duties.”
Before making a request, it’s important to organize and prioritize the information you want from the public agency and to be clear in your request about what record(s) you’re seeking.
The public agency says that it will take a few days to find my public record(s). Can they make me wait?
Ohio Revised Code 149.43 (B)(1) requires that public records requests be promptly prepared. Reasonable people may differ about what that means, but the clear intent of the legislature is that a public agency must comply with a records request as soon as practicable.
Can the public agency charge a fee for my public records request?
While the agency cannot charge a “fee” for providing copies of public records, the law does allow a public agency to charge costs for making physical copies of records and for postage if mailing records to you. These costs are ordinarily due in advance. Ask for an estimate before you order your record(s).
Can I just go to the office and view the records instead of requesting that public records be sent to me?
Yes. Ohio Revised Code 149.43 (B)(1) requires that public records be promptly prepared and made available for inspection at all reasonable times during regular business hours. For your own convenience, it would probably be best to call ahead and make sure the records are ready for you.
What happens after I make my request for a public record?
The process for how a public agency should respond to a request for a public record is defined in Ohio Revised Code 149.43 (B)(1):
“Upon request and subject to division (B)(8) of this section, all public records responsive to the request shall be promptly prepared and made available for inspection to any person at all reasonable times during regular business hours. Subject to division (B)(8) of this section, upon request, a public office or person responsible for public records shall make copies of the requested public record available at cost and within a reasonable period of time. If a public record contains information that is exempt from the duty to permit public inspection or to copy the public record, the public office or the person responsible for the public record shall make available all of the information within the public record that is not exempt.”
The public agency refused to comply with my records request. Now what?
You have a couple of choices. However, before moving forward with either of them, make sure that your request has truly been denied and that you know the reason for the denial. If possible, it’s best to get the denial in writing. If you submitted a verbal request, the agency does not have to give you a written reason for the denial. However, if you requested your record(s) in writing, the agency must provide a written explanation of the denial. Ohio Revised Code 149.43 (B)(3). This is why you should always make your request in writing, and why it’s best to use the sample request form  on our website.
I have my denial for public records in writing. What do I do now?
You have two legal options:
  • File a writ of mandamus in your county common pleas court or your local court of appeals.
  • Filecomplaint  here in the Court of Claims.
You must choose one or the other — you cannot do both. Ohio Revised Code 149.43 (C)(1).
How do I know if I should file my public records case in the Court of Claims?
It’s best to sit down with a lawyer and discuss your rights and options. Ohio law forbids employees of courts and clerks’ offices from giving legal advice. Keep in mind, however, that when the legislature created a public records process in the Court of Claims, they made sure it was streamlined and that it did not require hiring an attorney. Regardless of which method you choose (writ of mandamus or filing a complaint  in the Court of Claims), you must choose one or the other — you cannot do both. Ohio Revised Code 149.43 (C)(1).
How do I get the Court of Claims to review the denial of my public records request?
You must complete the Public Records Access Formal Complaint form  and attach all required documents. Then file the complaint in one of three ways:
  1. Complete and file online, using the Court of Claims e-FileOH feature,
  2. Print the complaint form, complete it, and mail it to the court,
  3. Print the complaint form, complete it, and file it with the court in person.
Ohio Court of Claims The Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center 65 South Front Street, 3rd Floor Columbus, Ohio 43215 You must pay a $25 filing fee for the Court to process your case. You can use a credit card if filing online. You must enclose a check or money order, made payable to the Ohio Court of Claims, if filing by mail. Finally, you may pay cash if filing in person. Please do not mail cash.
Does it cost money to file a public records case?
Yes. The law requires that you pay a $25 filing fee when filing a complaintOhio Revised Code 2743.75 (D)(1). You can use a credit card if filing online. You must enclose a check or money order, made payable to the Ohio Court of Claims, if filing by mail. Finally, you may pay cash if filing in person. Please do not mail cash.
Will I have to pay court costs?
Possibly. At the conclusion of the case, the court will assign payment of court costs to one or both parties.
What happens once the Court receives my public records complaint form?
The Clerk of the Court will review your complaint to make sure it meets the minimum legal requirements necessary for the Court to act on your complaint.
  • If the complaint does not meet the minimum legal requirements, it will be returned to you with a written explanation and your filing fee. You may then correct any errors and return the form, with the filing fee, to the Court for processing.
  • If your complaint does meet the requirements, then the Court will begin the process of reviewing your complaint.
What can I expect once this review process begins?
You will be contacted by one of the staff attorneys here at the Court. The attorney will review your request to properly understand what records you requested and why you did not receive those records. Once the staff attorney has that information, he or she will contact the public agency to find out why your request was denied. This simple act of communication frequently resolves the problem. If it does not, then your complaint will be referred for formal mediation.
Why does my public records complaint have to go to mediation?
Your complaint goes to mediation because that is what the law requires. Ohio Revised Code 2743.75 (E)(1). Mediation makes it possible for many disputes to be resolved more quickly, at less cost, and to everyone’s satisfaction—rather than going through the formal legal process.
What exactly is mediation?
In mediation, the disputing parties work with a neutral third party, called the mediator, to resolve their disputes. The mediator facilitates the resolution of the parties’ disputes by supervising the exchange of information and the bargaining process. The mediator helps the parties find common ground and deal with unrealistic expectations. He or she may also offer creative solutions and assist in reaching an agreement. The role of the mediator is to interpret concerns, relay information between the parties, frame issues, and define the problems. You’ll find additional information about our mediation program on our Alternative Dispute Resolution page.
Who will mediate my public records case?
The Court of Claims will select a trained, experienced attorney mediator to work with you and the public agency to help resolve your dispute. The mediator may be an employee of the Court of Claims, the Ohio Supreme Court Dispute Resolution section, or one of the other independent contract mediators who regularly provides mediation services. Ohio Revised Code 2743.79 (E)(1). All mediation sessions will be conducted by phone or other technological means (e.g. video conference).
What if mediation does not resolve my dispute with the public agency?
If mediation does not resolve your dispute, your complaint will be assigned to an experienced attorney, called a Special Master, here at the Court of Claims for a formal legal ruling. The Special Master will review the documents you filed and any response submitted by the public agency and issue a report and recommendation. There will be no hearing or trial, and the law prohibits the Special Master from having access to any information about what was discussed in your mediation session.
When does the public office file its response to the complaint?
When the court issues a notice of termination of mediation (or otherwise, as ordered by the special master). Once the notice of termination is issued, the public office has ten business days to file a response and, if applicable, a motion to dismiss the complaint. Ohio Revised Code 2743.75 (E)(2).
What if I disagree with the report and recommendation of the public records Special Master?
You can object to the report and recommendation issued by the Special Master, but you must object in writing within seven days after you receive the report. If you object in a timely manner, a judicial officer here at the Court will review the report for legal errors. If there are no errors, the Court will issue a final order, which you may appeal to the appropriate court of appeals. Law requires that you file the appeal in the appellate district in the principal place of business of the public office from which you requested the public recordOhio Revised Code 2743.75 (G)(1). Ohio has 12 appellate districts, or courts of appeal, each with different rules for filing an appeal. To learn more about how to properly appeal a case, check with the specific court of appeals in that location.

Fees & Costs

The law requires that you pay a $25 filing fee when filing a complaint. You can pay by credit card if filing online. You must enclose a check or money order if filing by mail, or you may pay cash if filing in person.

Please refer to the following fee schedule for more information:

Public Records Denial Complaint Filing Fee
$25.00
Entering on journal, indexing & posting on any docket (each page)
$2.00
Acknowledging all instruments in writing
$2.00
Notice of appeal, including the filing & noting of all necessary documents
$25.00
Each electronic transmission of a document, plus $1.00 for each page of that document (to be paid by the party requesting the electronic transmission)
$2.00
Certified copy of document (per page)
$1.00
Uncertified copy of a document (per page)
$0.10

Glossary of Terms

Reading about legal matters and Court processes can mean coming across unfamiliar words and abbreviations. The glossary below can help you look up and hopefully understand some of the terminology used in the Court of Claims.

In addition, Court News Ohio provides an interactive online glossary to help the public understand the legal terms that Ohio courts and lawyers frequently use.

Administrative Determinations
Small claims (for $10,000 or less) that are decided by the Clerk of the Court and based on the documents, photos, affidavits, etc. that have been submitted for review.
Affidavit
A written statement of facts confirmed by the oath of the party making it, before a notary or officer having authority to administer oaths.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Settling a dispute without a full, formal trial. Methods include mediation, conciliation, arbitration, and settlement, among others.
Answer
The defendant’s response to the plaintiff’s allegations as stated in a complaint. An item-by-item, paragraph-by-paragraph response to points made in a complaint; part of the pleadings.
Appeal
A higher court’s review of a lower court or administrative agency decision (for example, the Attorney General).
Attorney of Record
The principal attorney in a lawsuit, who signs all formal documents relating to the suit.
Bench Trial
Trial without a jury in which a judge decides the facts.
Case Number
A unique number assigned to a case by each court. In the Court of Claims, the case number is a nine digit number that begins with the year the case is filed. For example, 2014-00229.
Certificate of Service
A signed statement that indicates an exact copy of a document filed with the Court of Claims was provided to every other party in the case. The statement must indicate the names and addresses of everyone who receives a copy, when they were given a copy and how the copy was given or sent to them (for example, by hand delivery or by first-class mail.) All documents offered for filing in the Court of Claims must contain a certificate of service.
Civil Case
A non-criminal case that seeks a particular legal remedy. A civil case usually involves money damages.
Complaint
The legal document that usually begins a civil lawsuit. It states the facts and identifies the action the court is asked to take.
Court Costs
The expenses of prosecuting or defending a lawsuit, other than the attorneys’ fees.
Damages
Money awarded by a court to a person injured by the unlawful act or negligence of another person.
Date of Decision
The date that is file-stamped on the judgment.
Decision
Judgment, decree or determination of findings of fact and/or of law by a judge, court or other judicial officer.
Defendant
The person or organization being sued.
Docket
The list of all proceedings and filings in a case.
Et al
And others
Exhibit
A document or other item introduced as evidence during a trial or hearing.
Expedite
To accelerate. The court can decide to accelerate the progress of a pending matter either on its own or in response to a motion to expedite.
File
To place a paper in the official custody of the clerk of court to enter into the files or records of a case.
Filing Deadline
The date a document must be filed with the clerk’s office. In order to be filed, the document and all required copies must be in the clerk’s office and in full compliance with the applicable Rules by 5 p.m. on the filing deadline.
Filing Fee
The sum of money that must be paid before a case can be filed with the Court of Claims.
Immunity
Immunity refers to a protection from personal liability that may be provided to a state employee who is sued in his or her individual capacity.
Judgment Entry
The court’s written decision in a case.
Judicial Review
The authority of a court to review the official actions of other branches of government. For example, the Ohio Court of Claims has judicial review over decisions made by the Ohio Attorney General on claims for Crime Victims Compensation.
Jurisdiction
A court’s authority to decide a case or issue an order.
Magistrate
Judicial officer exercising some of the functions of a judge.
Mediation
A form of alternative dispute resolution in which the parties bring their dispute to a neutral third party, who helps them agree on a settlement.
Motion
Oral or written request made by a party to an action before, during, or after a trial, upon which a court issues a ruling or order.
Negligence
Failure to exercise the degree of care that a reasonable person would exercise under the same circumstances.
Ohio Revised Code
The laws enacted by the Ohio General Assembly. The Ohio Revised Code is organized by subject matter and divided into general provisions, titles, chapters, and sections.
Opinion
A court’s written statement explaining its final decision in a case.
Original
The document from which a copy is a made; usually includes the original signature of the person filing the document.
Party
A person, business, or government agency actively involved in the prosecution or defense of a legal proceeding.
Petition for Removal
The transfer of a case from one court to another. In this sense, removal refers to a transfer of a case from a common pleas court to the Court of Claims because the state has been named a defendant either by counterclaim or third party claim. This is not discretionary, as the Court of Claims has exclusive jurisdiction over all claims against the state.
Plaintiff
The person who files the complaint in a civil lawsuit.
Pleadings
The written statements of fact and law filed by the parties to a lawsuit.
Pre-Trial Conference
A meeting between the judge and the parties involved in a lawsuit to narrow the issues of the suit, agree on what will be presented at trial, and make a final effort to settle the case without a trial.
Pro Bono
From the Latin “pro bono publico,” meaning “for the public good.” Legal services performed pro bono are performed by a licensed attorney without any expectation of compensation.
Pro Se
Latin for “for one’s self.” A person appearing pro se or filing pro se in a court does so without the assistance of a licensed attorney.
Record
All the documents and evidence plus transcripts of oral proceedings in a case.
Response
The reply by a party to charges raised in a pleading by the other party.
Service
The delivery of a legal document (such as a complaint, summons, subpoena) notifying the person or organization that a lawsuit has been filed against that person or organization.
Settlement
An agreement between the parties disposing of a lawsuit.
Statute of Limitations
The time within which a plaintiff must bring a lawsuit.
Stay
An order suspending or postponing all or part of a judicial proceeding or the judgment from that proceeding.
Summons
A notice to a defendant that he or she has been sued and is required to appear in court.
Testimony
The evidence given by a witness under oath. It does not include evidence from documents and other physical evidence.
Transcript
A written, word-for-word record of what was said, either in a proceeding such as a trial or during some other conversation, such as an oral deposition.
Witness
A person who testifies to what he or she has seen, heard, or otherwise experienced.