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Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen Issues Statement on Wisconsin Supreme Court's Decision in Milwaukee Journal Sentinel v. City of Milwaukee


MADISON — Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen issued the following statement regarding the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision in Milwaukee Journal Sentinel v. City of Milwaukee, Case No. 2011 AP 1112, which holds that public records custodians may not charge requestors for the time and expense of redacting records:


“This decision provides a straightforward and commonsense interpretation of the Public Records law.  A requestor cannot be required to pay for something unless the statute clearly authorizes a fee.  This is the correct decision, and a decision which promotes open government.”


Regarding the practical implications of the decision, Van Hollen also stated:


“I see two main points to take away from this decision.  First, this case is a win for requestors.  However, I would encourage requestors to continue to consider and respect the obligations that governmental bodies face when complying with the public records law, and to be patient when trying to obtain information.  Complicated requests and redactions do take time and all governmental agencies are facing the challenges of tight budgets and reduced personnel.    Second, the decision makes it clear that the legislature, not the courts, must balance the competing interests under the public records law when determining who should bear the costs of redaction.”


A copy of the decision is available at the following link:

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel v. City of Milwaukee, Case No. 2011 AP 1112


Attorney General Van Hollen and Assistant Attorney General Carrie Benedon filed an amicus curiae brief in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel case.