When the Office of Open Records (OOR) issues a Final Determination (FD) that orders an agency to provide public records, requesters often ask what they can do if the agency doesn't provide the records.
The short answer is that you must seek help from a Court to enforce the FD. In very limited circumstances, the OOR will seek to enforce its own orders, and will only undertake enforcement actions in court at its discretion.
Either party to an appeal to the OOR may appeal the OORs Final Determination within 30 days from when the FD is mailed. This appeal is either filed with the Commonwealth Court or the applicable County Court of Common Pleas.
If the OOR ordered records to be provided to the requester and the agency files an appeal, the documents may not be released until the court makes a decision in the appeal. That proceeding can take time, depending on its complexity and the workload of the court. The OOR may, but is not obligated to, participate in appeals of its FDs.
If the agency does not appeal the OORs FD, the OORs FD becomes enforceable on the 31st day after the FD is mailed. As of this date, if the agency has not provided the documents, the requester or the OOR may seek to enforce the order with a Court.
If the agency involved is a local agency, the requester must file an enforcement action in the Court of Common Pleas for the county as indicated in the FD. If the agency involved is a Commonwealth agency, the requester must file an enforcement action in the Commonwealth Court.
The Office of Open Records strongly recommends that anyone considering legal action to enforce a FD seek advice of counsel to gain a full understanding of his or her rights and to fully comply with all requirements and time limits, or statutes of limitations.
Because of the number of requests we receive related to this topic, below are copies of enforcement actions that have been filed by requesters who have not received records that the OOR ordered to be provided, as well as enforcement actions filed by the OOR. These are public, judicial records. The Office does not endorse these forms or purport to advise any party that these are the best or only courses of action in any particular matter. We simply provide them as a courtesy.