Title 44. Public Records and Recorders

Chapter 1. Public Records

Part II. General Provisions

 

44:35       Enforcement

 

A. Any person who has been denied the right to inspect, copy, reproduce, or obtain a copy or reproduction of a record under the provisions of this Chapter, either by a determination of the custodian or by the passage of five days, exclusive of Saturdays, Sundays, and legal public holidays, from the date of his in-person, written, or electronic request without receiving a determination in writing by the custodian or an estimate of the time reasonably necessary for collection, segregation, redaction, examination, or review of a records request, may institute proceedings for the issuance of a writ of mandamus, injunctive or declaratory relief, together with attorney fees, costs and damages as provided for by this Section, in the district court for the parish in which the office of the custodian is located.

 

B. In any suit filed under Subsection A above, the court has jurisdiction to enjoin the custodian from withholding records or to issue a writ of mandamus ordering the production of any records improperly withheld from the person seeking disclosure. The court shall determine the matter de novo and the burden is on the custodian to sustain his action. The court may view the documents in controversy in camera before reaching a decision. Any noncompliance with the order of the court may be punished as contempt of court.

 

C. Any suit brought in any court of original jurisdiction to enforce the provisions of this Chapter shall be tried by preference and in a summary manner. Any appellate courts to which the suit is brought shall place it on its preferential docket and shall hear it without delay, rendering a decision as soon as practicable.

 

D. If a person seeking the right to inspect, copy, or reproduce a record or to receive or obtain a copy or reproduction of a public record prevails in such suit, he shall be awarded reasonable attorney fees and other costs of litigation. If such person prevails in part, the court may in its discretion award him reasonable attorney fees or an appropriate portion thereof.

 

E. (1) If the court finds that the custodian arbitrarily or capriciously withheld the requested record or unreasonably or arbitrarily failed to respond to the request as required by R.S. 44:32, it may award the requester any actual damages proven by him to have resulted from the actions of the custodian except as hereinafter provided. In addition, if the court finds that the custodian unreasonably or arbitrarily failed to respond to the request as required by R.S. 44:32 it may award the requester civil penalties not to exceed one hundred dollars per day, exclusive of Saturdays, Sundays, and legal public holidays for each such day of such failure to give notification.

 

(2) The custodian shall be personally liable for the payment of any such damages, and shall be liable in solido with the public body for the payment of the requester’s attorney fees and other costs of litigation, except where the custodian has withheld or denied production of the requested record or records on advice of the legal counsel representing the public body in which the office of such custodian is located, and in the event the custodian retains private legal counsel for his defense or for bringing suit against the requester in connection with the request for records, the court may award attorney fees to the custodian.

 

F. An award for attorney fees in any suit brought under the provisions of this Chapter shall not exceed the amounts approved by the attorney general for the employment of outside counsel.

 

Amended by Acts 1978, No. 686, § 1; Acts 1988, No. 336, § 1; Acts 1999, No. 1154, § 1; Acts 2014, No. 629, § 1.