Study examines: Does a state constitutional right to know make a difference?

State constitutional rights guaranteeing access to information can’t hurt, and may help, when judges balance the interests of disclosure and privacy. 

But there’s little evidence that a constitutional right to access produces better results directly for requesters. That’s, in part, because many variables influence the outcome of a request, particularly the state’s political culture. 

Those are some conclusions of University of Florida’s Levin College of Law students Jessica Terkovich and Aryeh Frank, in their article “Constitutionalizing Access: How Courts Weigh State Constitutional Claims in Open Government Litigation,” published in the June 2021 edition of The Journal of Civic Information

Seven states explicitly detail the public’s right to attend government meetings or inspect government  documents. Those states are California, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Montana, New  Hampshire and North Dakota. 

“Constitutional protections are an important factor to be weighed by the courts in the complex balancing of the right to know and private interests, and should not be discounted,” Terkovich and Frank write. “Indeed, state constitutions can serve as a source of substantive individual rights that courts may be willing to read more broadly than those enumerated in the U.S. Constitution.”