Montana FOIA Laws

Montana Open Meetings Law

The Montana Open Meetings Law legislates the method by which public meetings are conducted. The law defines meeting as any gathering of a quorum of the members of a public body, including the use of electronic equipment, so as to deliberate and decide on public policy. If violated, a suit must be filed within 30 days. If a court finds a violation it may void any action taken at the meeting in violation.

Open Meetings Law Montana Code 2-3-201 et seq.

Closed: Matters involving individual privacy and litigation between government entities and private parties. Citizens may file suit to overturn decisions made in allegedly illegal meetings. However, in 2006, the Montana Supreme Court ruled that citizens who challenge a decision must prove that it caused them “actual harm” over and above that of an ordinary taxpaper or citizen.

Montana Public Records Act

The Montana Public Records Act is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to public records of government bodies at all levels. The original definition of records includes all writings of government bodies including electronic mail. However, it has been expanded to include all items in “electronic format or other non-print media, including but not limited to videotapes, photographs, microfilm, film, or computer disk.”

The Montana Public Records Act stats that citizens are entitled to public records in the state, however, the Montana Constitution states that no person may be denied such records. The Constitution trumps statute, so anyone may request public documents in Montana. There is no requirement for a statement of purpose, but the law does place a limit on the sale of mailing lists for commercial reasons. There are no time limits specified for a response to a request.

Public Records Act Montana Code 2-6-101 et seq.

The law gives citizens the right to inspect any “public writings” of the state except as prohibited by statute. Recent legislation removed several exemptions to the law, thus opening records, including death certificates.

Exempt: Records may be closed if the right to individual privacy clearly exceeds the public’s right to know. However, the Montana Supreme Court has upheld challenges to statutes or executive branch decisions that closed records, ruling that the constitutional public right to know outweighed the individual privacy interest.

Visit, Montana Sample FOIA Request, to view a sample FOIA request for the state.