Tulane Environmental Law Clinic


Knowledge is power. The Louisiana Public Records Act, La. R.S. 44:1-41, and Article XII, Section 3 of the Louisiana Constitution grants any person a right to examine and copy public documents in the possession of the state and its political subdivisions. The Public Records Act enables Louisiana residents to become knowledgeable about state and local governmental activities and, thus, to participate more effectively in public debate.


To be "public," the record must have been used, prepared, possessed, or retained for use in connection with a function performed under authority of the Louisiana Constitution, a state law, or an ordinance, regulation, mandate, or order of a public body. This definition covers virtually every kind of record kept by a state or local governmental body. La. R.S. 44:1(A)(1). In Louisiana, a "public record" includes books, records, writings, letters, memos, microfilm, and photographs, including copies and other reproductions.


In Louisiana, any person at least 18 years of age may inspect, copy, reproduce or obtain a copy of any public record. La. R.S. 44:32. The purpose for the document request is immaterial, and an agency or record custodian may not inquire as to the reason, except to justify a fee waiver.


At the state level, to request public records you must either write a letter requesting information or submit a specific form according to the governing regulations under the Public Records Act.  The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, as well as other state agencies, have forms for citizens to use when requesting public records.  Some agencies require a letter specifying the information you want to review.  A request to review or copy a public record is made to the custodian of the records. The custodian is the public official or head of any public body having custody or control of the public record, or a representative authorized to respond to requests to inspect public records.

You may also make an oral request in person to inspect a public record. At that time, the public record must be immediately presented to you, unless the record is not immediately available or is being actively used at the time. If the public record is not immediately available, the custodian must promptly notify you in writing of the reason why the record is not immediately available and fix a day and hour within three days (excluding Saturday, Sunday, and legal holidays) when the records will be made available.

If you visit the agency in person, the custodian of the records must provide a reasonably comfortable place for you to review the records. The custodian may prevent any alteration of the record being examined, but the custodian cannot review anything in the requesting person’s possession (including notes).

Regardless of the manner of request, all agencies subject to the PRA must charge the copying rates mandated in the Act.  The copy fee was recently reduced to make it easier for citizens to request information from the state agencies. 

(See link above for sample letter.)

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