Office of Open Government

Wisconsin's open government laws promote democracy by ensuring that all state, regional and local governments conduct their business with transparency. Wisconsin citizens have a right to know how their government is spending their tax dollars and exercising the powers granted by the people. This page is a resource for all Wisconsinites to understand and exercise their right to access their government.


Attorney General's Open Government Summit

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Early in his administration, Attorney General Brad D. Schimel promised to make reforming Wisconsin’s outdated Open Government laws a priority and was excited to welcome participants and guests to the 2015 Open Government Summit. The Attorney General's goal for the summit was to provide recommendations to the Wisconsin Legislature that will provide clearer guidance to public officials and those who seek information from government without reducing rights to access.


Summit Media

Full Summit Video

Summit Handout

Summit PowerPoint Presentation

MLRC’s Model Policy on Police Body-Worn Camera Footage


Open Meetings Law

Wisconsin's Open Meetings Law, enacted in 1976, attempts to promote openness in government and to provide Wisconsin citizens with an opportunity to observe and educate themselves about their government's operations.



Compliance Guide (2010)[PDF]

Presentation (2014)[PDF]

Webinar (2014)[WMV]*Ignore the error message that shows up between 02:12 and 03:15 of the webinar.*

Wisconsin Open Meetings Law, Wis. Stat. §§ 19.81 to 19.98


Public Records Law

Wisconsin's Public Records Law took much of its present form in 1981 and is in place to provide the public with reasonable access to public records at reasonable costs.



Compliance Outline (2012)[PDF]

Compliance Outline Supplement (2014)[PDF]

Presentation (2014)[PDF]

Webinar (2014)[WMV]

Wisconsin Public Records Law, Wis. Stat. §§ 19.31 to 19.39


Additional Guidance: Attorney General Opinions and Memoranda


  • OAG-07-14 (Oct. 15, 2014)[PDF] This formal opinion provides guidance on the application of Wis. Stat. section 19.356(9), which requires notice to public officials before an authority permits access to certain records.
  • OAG-05-14 (Oct. 15, 2014)[PDF] This formal opinion discusses applicability of Wisconsin's open meetings law to the activities of the election canvassing board.
  • Memorandum (Jan. 14, 2013)[PDF] The Wisconsin Supreme Court decision in Juneau County Star-Times v. Juneau County is explained in this informational memorandum.
  • Memorandum (Apr. 27, 2012)[PDF] This memorandum addresses how 2011 Wisconsin Act 283 relates to the Wisconsin Public Records Law.
  • Memorandum (July 28, 2010)[PDF] The practical impact of the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision in Schill v. Wisconsin Rapids School District on public records custodians and public records requesters is discussed.
  • I-06-09 (Dec. 23, 2009)[PDF]This informal opinion discusses how the content of a social website maintained by government official and used to discuss government business likely is a public record.
  • OAG 7-09 (Nov. 16, 2009)[PDF] This formal opinion answers questions about Wis. Stat. section 12.13(5) prohibition against disclosure of certain records and investigative information related to possible violations of Wisconsin elections, lobbying, and ethics laws.
  • I-02-09 (Mar. 19, 2009)[PDF] This informal opinion provides guidance for analyzing whether an entity constitutes a “quasi-governmental corporation” that is an “authority” subject to the Wisconsin Public Records Law.
  • I-02-08 (Apr. 29, 2008)[PDF] The intersection of the Wisconsin Public Records Law with the federal Driver’s Privacy Protection Act is discussed in this informal opinion.
  • I-03-07 (Sept. 27, 2007)[PDF] This informal opinion discusses the intersection of federal medical records privacy rules and Wisconsin law regarding access to records.


Sample Documents

These samples are provided for illustrative purposes only. Always review applicable legal requirements and consider the unique factual circumstances presented by a specific situation.


Public Records Request Clarification Letter Sample 1[PDF] | Sample 2[PDF]

Public Records Request Prepayment Letter[PDF]

Pre-release Notice: Required by Wis. Stat. § 19.356(2)(a)1. Sample 1[PDF] | Sample 2[PDF]

Pre-release Notice: Required by Wis. Stat. § 19.356(9)[PDF]

Pre-release Notice: Courtesy Notice[PDF]


Making a Public Records Request for Records of the Department of Justice

Send your request in letter form to the attention of Paul M. Ferguson, Office of Open Government, Wisconsin Department of Justice, 17 W. Main St., P.O. Box 7857, Madison, WI 53707-7857. No special form is needed to submit your request. The response time will vary depending on the type of documents you seek, whether it is related to a criminal activity and whether or not the case is closed. We respond to all requests as soon as practicable and without delay. Information on charges to obtain records can be found on the DOJ Public Records Notice[PDF].