NEFAC, ACLU and N.H. Press Support Public Records Fee-Shifting Requirement

CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 |


The New England First Amendment Coalition and several New Hampshire open government advocates are calling for mandatory fee shifting in the state’s public records law.

HB307 would require government bodies to bear the expense of a record requester’s successful lawsuit.

Currently under the law, the requester pays the litigation costs in most cases unless it can be shown, under a high standard, that the public body “knew or should have known that the conduct engaged in was in violation” of the law.

In addition to NEFAC, the ACLU of New Hampshire, The Bow Times, The New Hampshire Bulletin, The Union Leader, the New Hampshire Press Association and The Boston Globe support the legislation.

In a Jan. 3 statement sent to the state Senate Judiciary Committee, the organizations explained that:

Mandatory fee-shifting is important because, when a requester successfully goes to court, the requester has brought a lawsuit that confers a societal good, not just a personal benefit. And, without mandatory fee shifting, a member of the public is left to weigh the relative value of the requested records against the cost of litigation. The result of this calculus is that many successful lawsuits to remedy a government’s violation may not be brought and, as a result, the public loses out on important information. Moreover, with mandatory fee shifting, a government entity is more likely to apply the Right-to-Know Law with a presumption in favor of transparency and err on the side of disclosure, as required by the Law.

NEFAC is the region’s leading advocate for the First Amendment and the public’s right to know about government. All coalition briefs, advocacy letters and statements can be found here.

NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.

Our coalition is funded through contributions made by those who value the First Amendment and who strive to keep government accountable. Please make a donation here.

NEFAC is supported by the Estate of Gloria Negri. Additional funding is provided by Leadership Circle donors including the Rhode Island Foundation, The Boston Globe, Paul and Ann Sagan, and the Robertson Foundation. Major Supporters of NEFAC’s work are Hearst Connecticut Media Group, Boston University, the Academy of New England Journalists, the Society of Professional Journalists Foundation, Genie Gannett for the First Amendment Museum, Linda Pizzuti Henry, the Champa Charitable Foundation Fund, Connecticut Public and WBUR-Boston.