by Jadranko Tomic-Bobas, Managing Hotline Attorney
If you think about it, March 16th is not a joyous day for many people – unless, of course, it’s our birthday. Some people view March 16th as just another Thursday, and I suspect that they may be counting the minutes until the weekend. While many of us view the month of March as the beginning of March Madness (Go Green), holy Izzo month, 20th straight NCAA tournament bid month, month of Green and White, or anything else that rhymes with Go Green Go White, and I also suspect, and know from personal experience, that nothing else matters in the month of March to those people. At this point, you might be asking yourself why do I care about March 16th?
For many, March 16th stands for freedom of information and openness in government. March 16th is the National Freedom of Information Day, which is a celebration of James Madison the 4th President of the United States of America. Madison is known as the “Father of the Constitution” and as an advocate for openness in government. James Madison famously wrote that
(a) popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives.”
Jim Bohannon, a national radio talk show host, created the National Freedom of Information Day. March 16th is recognized by several U.S. government websites; however, it’s not considered a federal holiday.
In honor of President Madison, this article will introduce the Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and later articles will focus on key definitions and the different components of FOIA.
The Michigan Freedom of Information Act was passed in 1976. Michigan FOIA sets regulations and requirements for the disclosure of most public records by all public bodies in the state. Most public records are subject to disclosure; however, certain records are exempt and are not subject to disclosure.
The request for records must be submitted in writing. Every public body has a designed FOIA coordinator, and if an employee of the public body receives a request, he or she must forward the request to the FOIA coordinator. The Nation Freedom of Information Coalition has published, on their website, a Michigan Sample FOIA Request.
If you have any questions on the Michigan FOIA, please contact the Legal Hotline for Michigan Seniors at 800.347.5297 and our hotline attorneys will be happy to answer your questions. Also, be on the lookout for my next blog post, which will examine public bodies that are covered by the FOIA and some of the challenges individuals face when submitting an FOIA request.