NEFAC: Vt. Public Records Act Covers Private Companies Providing Essential Gov’t Services

Coalition and Fellow Amici Argue for Broad Interpretation of Law, More Transparency

CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 |


The New England First Amendment Coalition recently argued to the Vermont Supreme Court that private entities performing essential government services are subject to the state’s public records law.

Courts throughout the country apply their state’s respective public records statutes to certain private entities, explained NEFAC and other advocates in a March 22 amicus brief drafted by the ACLU Foundation of Vermont.

The common-sense conclusion of these courts is that when the government contracts with an external entity “to step into its shoes in performing its essential functions” that entity must be subject to the public records law, the amici wrote.

“This Court would not be staking out a novel or unusual position in interpreting the [Public Records Act] to encompass private entities when and to the extent that they are acting as the functional equivalent of the government,” they added, noting that this position has also been adopted by at least four decisions of Vermont’s superior courts.

Regionally, most New England states apply their public records laws to private entities in similar circumstances: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

NEFAC regularly files and joins amicus briefs in cases involving First Amendment freedoms 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.

Major Supporters of NEFAC include Hearst Connecticut Media Group, Paul and Ann Sagan, The Boston Globe, WBUR, Boston University and the Robertson Foundation.