North Dakota Open Records Statute
The Open Records Statute is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to public records of governmental bodies in North Dakota.
The North Dakota Open Meetings Statute legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted.
To learn more about how to make a public records request in this state, please see: North Dakota FOIA procedures
- See also: North Dakota transparency headlines
- Judge seals documents in UND nickname case 2012-02-09 21:53:22
- University must reconsider denial of records 2009-06-12 15:28:07
- Legislative panel demands records from ND auditor 2009-06-12 15:24:15
- Mandan violated open records law, ND AG says 2009-06-12 15:41:04
- System has proven it works 2009-06-12 15:35:54
- Proposal limits records on ND college presidents 2009-06-12 15:34:25
- ND House defeats bill to weaken open records law 2009-06-12 15:43:33
- Open meeting law change endorsed 2009-06-12 15:37:35
- Board proposal restricts access 2009-06-12 15:26:07
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Relevant legal cases
- See also: Court cases with an impact on state FOIA
Here is a list of lawsuits in North Dakota. For more information go the page or go to North Dakota sunshine lawsuits.
(The cases are listed alphabetically. To order them by year please click the icon to the right of the Year heading)
|City of Grand Forks v. Grand Forks Herald||1981|
|Forum Publishing Company v. City of Fargo||1986|
|Grand Forks Herald v. Lyons||1960|
Here is a list of transparency legislation for North Dakota in 2011. This list contains a random collection of 15 bills from the state. For the full list please see North Dakota transparency legislation.
|House Bill 1075||Current Status: (Placed on calendar awaiting vote from the House)||
House Bill 1075, introduced to the House of Representatives by Representative Eliot Glassheim which would require any state agency that would require any state agency or subdivision to notify the state records management administrator of any unlawfully removed or missing records. 
|House Bill 1156||Current Status: (Placed on calendar awaiting committee assignment in the Senate)||
House Bill 1156, introduced to the House of Representatives by Representative Lawrence Klemin which would make audio recordings of emergency calls exempt from the public record. However the audio recording may be listened to, but not copied. Additionally a transcript of the audio recording may be requested as a public record. 
|Senate Bill 2232||Current Status: (Placed on calendar awaiting committee assignment in the House)||
Senate Bill 2232, introduced to the Senate by Senator John Andrist, would alter the public records and open meetings laws to allow for electronic records, notification of meetings and record storage. 
|The North Dakota legislature either did not have a session or had a fiscal session in 2010.|
House Bill 1220  was endorsed by the House Judiciary Committee on January 20, 2009. The bill seeks to change North Dakota's open meetings law to permit local governing bodies to gather during times of emergency without prior issuance of notice. An amendment to the bill specifies that "public officials would be restricted to matters regarding the disaster, and could not conduct any official business without issuing a public notice". 
Senate Bill 2087,  introduced by the Education Committee (at the request of the State Board of Higher Education), seeks to exempt the names of applicants for university presidencies and the higher education system chancellor until a job search reaches the semifinalist phase. Sen. John Andrist (R-Crosby) amended the bill to make more names public sooner in the process, and to give applicants two weeks notice prior to the time when their names would become public, at which point applicants wishing to remain private could rescind their application.  SB2087 passed the Senate 30-15 and now moves to the House. The Bismarck Tribune is advocating for the House to quash the bill, saying it is "not good public policy. It is good-old-boy-network politics." 
SB2087 was defeated in the House 56-37. 
North Dakota's transparency report card
A 2008 study, BGA - Alper Integrity Index, conducted by the Better Government Association and sponsored by Alper Services, ranked North Dakota #34 in the nation (tied with Nevada) with an overall percentage of 48.10%.
A 2007 study, Graded state responsiveness to FOI requests, conducted by BGA and the NFOIC, gave North Dakota 44 points out of a possible 100, a letter grade of "F", and a ranking of 30 out of the 50 states.
Features of the law
- Compare States: Sunshine variations: Click on the heading to compare your state's law to other state's transparency laws.
While the law does not have a clearly defined legal intention, it does state that "all records of a public entity are public records, open and accessible for inspection during reasonable office hours."
North Dakota law defines records as, "recorded information of any kind, regardless of the physical form or characteristic by which the information is stored, recorded, or reproduced, which is in the possession or custody of a public entity or its agent and which has been received or prepared for use in connection with public business or contains information relating to public business" 
Notable exceptions include but are not limited to:
- drafts of documents can be withheld, given that the final document is released upon completion(North Dakota Statute 44.04, 18.11)
- employee medical or assistance records(North Dakota Statute 44.04, 18.1.1 )
- employee and licensee personal information including, "home address; home telephone number; photograph; medical information; motor vehicle operator's identification number; payroll deduction information; the name, address, telephone number, and date of birth of any dependent or emergency contact; any credit, debit, or electronic fund transfer card number; and any account number at a bank or other financial institution"(North Dakota Statute 44.04, 18.1.2)
- information that would identify undercover agents and informants (North Dakota Statute 44.04, 18.3.2 and 4)
- personal information of law enforcement agencies and work schedules (North Dakota Statute 44.04, 18.3.1 and 3)
- trade secrets and information concerning potential business locations(North Dakota Statute 44.04, 18.4)
- computer software (North Dakota Statute 44.04, 18.5)
- "a record of a purely personal or private nature, a record that is legislative council work product or is legislative council-client communication, a record that reveals the content of private communications between a member of the legislative assembly and any person, and, except with respect to a governmental entity determining the proper use of telephone service, a record of telephone usage which identifies the parties or lists the telephone numbers of the parties involved" (North Dakota Statute 44.04, 18.6)
- criminal investigation information (North Dakota Statute 44.04, 18.7)
- examinations (North Dakota Statute 44.04, 18.8)
- financial account information (North Dakota Statute 44.04, 18.9)
- lists of minors, including contact information (North Dakota Statute 44.04, 18.13)
- fundraising and donor records for non-profits and schools (North Dakota Statute 44.04, 18.15)
- student medical information (North Dakota Statute 44.04, 18.16)
- personal information from consumer complaints (North Dakota Statute 44.04, 18.17)
- autopsy images (North Dakota Statute 44.04, 18.18)
- economic assistance records for individuals (North Dakota Statute 44.04, 18.19)
- domestic violence records (North Dakota Statute 44.04, 18.20)
- email and telephone information from non-employees (North Dakota Statute 44.04, 18.21)
- attorney client confidentiality (North Dakota Statute 44.04, 19.1)
- security information(North Dakota Statute 44.04, 25 and 27)
- Social security numbers (North Dakota Statute 44.04, 18.28)
Public agencies include all all entities created or recognized by the constitution, statute or executive decree at all levels of state and local government as well as organizations who receive public funding.
The legislature falls under the definition of public body found at North Dakota Statute 44.04, 17.12 and is subject to the North Dakota Open Records Statute.
The definition of public body in the Open Records Statute extend to all private entities which receive public funding or perform a public function.
Status: Presumed Open Popular Exemptions Research Donors Examinations Course Materials  
- Presumed Open:Exemptions for donor records and exams
The definition of public body presumably includes public universities within the state. However, testing and exam material and donor records are explicitly exempted under North Dakota Statute 44.04.
There is no law requiring the statement of a purpose within the North Dakota Open Records Statute.
There are no restrictions placed on the used of records.
No response times are specified.
Fees for records
North Dakota statute allows for the charging of fees which include the cost of duplication, labor and use of equipment. 
Labor fees may be up to $25 an hour, not to include the first hour of labor and may include both search time, and the time it takes to separate exempt and non-exempt material.
Under § 44-04-21.1 of the North Dakota Century Code, any individual whose request for access to public records has been denied may request an opinion be issued by the State Attorney General. This written opinion must be delivered within thirty days of the alleged violation. Should the Attorney General decide in favor of the requester, the public agency or state governmental official has seven days after the opinion is issued to comply with the open records request, regardless of whether civil action is brought against them or not. Failure to comply with the Attorney General's opinion "will be the same as for other attorney general's opinions, including potential personal liability for the person or persons responsible for the noncompliance."  Additionally, if civil action is brought against the public agency accused of violating the open records law, " the entity, at its sole cost and expense, shall retain separate counsel who has been approved and appointed by the attorney genrepresent the entity in that action." 
All "meetings of a public entity must be open to the public" in North Dakota. This right to photograph or record public meetings is also explicitly included in the statute.
The Grand Forks Herald requested copies from the University of North Dakota (UND) regarding disciplinary procedures after anti-Semitic graffiti episodes occurred on campus in May 2008. UND denied the request, citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), leading North Dakota attorney general Wayne Stenehjem to rule that the university is in spite of how it interprets FERPA required to provide the paper with the requested documents.
- North Dakota FOIA procedures
- North Dakota transparency headlines
- North Dakota transparency advocates
- North Dakota transparency legislation
- Private agency, public dollars-North Dakota
- North Dakota Open Meetings Statute
- North Dakota Open Meetings and Public Records Statute
- Open Government Guide to North Dakota
- Past articles on North Dakota
- ↑ Text of HB 1075
- ↑ Text of HB 1156
- ↑ Text of SB 2232
- ↑ Text of HB1220
- ↑ Open meeting law change endorsed, Bismarck Tribune, January 21, 2009
- ↑ Text and Status of SB 2087
- ↑ ND legislators vote for more openness in college president searches, The Forum, January 27, 2009
- ↑ Bill is about ‘good old boy’ politics, Bismarck Tribune, February 9, 2009
- ↑ ND House defeats bill to weaken open records law, Associated Press, April 9, 2009
- ↑ 2008 BGA-Alper Integrity Index
- ↑ States Failing FOI Responsiveness, National Freedom of Information Coalition, October 2007
- ↑ Freedom of Information in the USA, 2002
- ↑ North Dakota Statute 44-04-18
- ↑ North Dakota Statute 44.04, 17.15
- ↑ North Dakota Statute 44.04
- ↑ North Dakota Statute 44.04, 18.10
- ↑ North Dakota Statute 44.04, 17.12
- ↑ Private agency, public dollars-North Dakota
- ↑ North Dakota Statute 44.04
- ↑ North Dakota Statute 44.04
- ↑ North Dakota Century Code, 44-04-18
- ↑ North Dakota Century Code, Statute 44.04, 18.2
- ↑ North Dakota Century Code, Statute 44.04, 18.2
- ↑ 24.0 24.1 N.D.C.C. § 44-04-21.1
- ↑ North Dakota Statute 44-04-19
- ↑ State Sunshine and Open Records, "FERPA v. open records", January 6, 2009
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