Wisconsin court’s ruling strengthens fee-recovery provisions for requesters, attorney says

A recent Wisconsin court of appeals decision should be seen as good news because it strengthens the state’s fee recovery provision and puts records requesters in a stronger position.

That’s the opinion of Christa Westerberg, vice president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, a member of the National Freedom of Information Coalition.

The appeals court decision in Meinecke v. Thyes means “that if a court orders the release of records — even if it’s only some of the records — the requester has ‘prevailed’ in substantial part and is thus entitled to attorney fees,” Westerberg, a Madison-based attorney, writes in a Sept. 2, 2021, article in the Wisconsin Law Journal. “While Wisconsin’s open records law has a mandatory fee-shifting provision, this case for the first time established that getting an order for records was sufficient to trigger it.”