Here are some resources for individuals making requests for public records under the State of Hawaii’s Uniform Information Practices Act. These resources are made available to the public for informational purposes only, are not a substitute for personal legal advice, and do not create an attorney-client relationship. Each public records request is unique. Please contact the Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest to discuss your particular situation. Inquiries to the Law Center are confidential, and advice is provided without charge. The Law Center cannot respond to inquiries from government officials; any public official seeking legal advice regarding the UIPA should contact his or her respective attorney general or corporation counsel or the Office of Information Practices.
A formal request starts the clock for an agency’s obligation to respond. A formal request, at a minimum, must: (1) be in writing; (2) have sufficient contact information for the agency to correspond with you; (3) provide a reasonable description of the requested record; and (4) state how you would like to receive the record (e.g., inspect, pick up copy, mail, fax, e-mail). You can make sure to cover the minimum by using the State of Hawai‘i Office of Information Practices’ Form (Request to Access a Government Record).
Public Interest Waiver
If you plan to request records about government operations that are not readily obtainable in the public domain and to disseminate those records widely to the general public, consider submitting a request for public interest waiver with your UIPA request. For some suggested language and additional details regarding submission of a public interest waiver, see this tipsheet.
Expecting a Response
Depending on the complexity of the request, agencies have different deadlines to respond to a UIPA request. Nevertheless, you should receive some form of response no less than 10 business days after the agency receives the request. For more details regarding when to expect a response, see this tipsheet.
Sometimes agencies do not respond to UIPA requests by the regulatory deadlines. For some suggested language when following up with non-responsive agencies, see this tipsheet. If the agency still fails to provide a meaningful response after diligent follow-up inquiries, you may contact the State of Hawai‘i Office of Information Practices for assistance in obtaining access by e-mailing OIP’s Form for Request for Assistance to the Office of Information Practices at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be persistent. Do not let an agency drag out the process. If you have any difficulty, contact the Law Center.
The UIPA does not require an agency to withhold any records. There may be other laws that require confidentiality (e.g., the constitutional right of privacy) for certain information, but if only the UIPA applies, agencies always have discretion to disclose records.
If an agency denies access, do not be discouraged. Communicate with the agency to learn as much as possible about why access was denied. Below are some common examples of agency justifications for denials.
- Personal privacy
- Frustration of a legitimate government function
- Agency does not maintain the record
- Record not maintained in the format requested
- Pending litigation
- Pending investigation
- Public safety
- Confidential business information
- Trade secrets
For some suggested language when following-up with agencies, see the page on Common Denials.
High Cost Estimates
Even if an agency does not deny access outright, estimated fees for completing a request can be an obstacle to access. Never give up based on a fee estimate. Discuss with the agency why its estimate is so high and whether there are ways to limit the request to reduce the costs. For some suggested language, see the bottom of the page on Common Denials.