As part of its fact-finding duty, the Office of Open Records (OOR) has the legal authority to require an agency to provide the requested records to the OOR so the OOR can review the records in private and determine whether some or all of the records should be released to the public.
This process is known as an in camera review.
The OOR does not conduct in camera reviews in every appeal. Instead, the OOR has the discretion to choose which cases would benefit from a review. However, due to the time-consuming nature of the process, the OOR ordinarily cannot engage in an in camera review unless the requester has specifically given the OOR additional time to issue a final order resolving his or her appeal.
Role of the OOR Appeals Officer
When an OOR Appeals Officer orders an agency to provide records for an in camera review, the agency seals the records and provides them to the OOR, where they are stored in a secure location. The OOR Appeals Officer reviews each withheld record and issues a final order determining which, if any, records are subject to public access. If either party appeals the Final Determination within thirty days, the records are transferred to the appropriate court of appeals where the court will determine whether the records should be released.
Index of Withheld Records
As part of an in camera review, an OOR Appeals Officer may require an agency to submit an index listing the withheld records along with the corresponding reason(s) for withholding access to each record. This is known as an in camera inspection index.
While the records submitted for an in camera review are only provided to the OOR, an in camera inspection index is provided to both the OOR and the requester. Thus, when preparing an in camera inspection index, an agency should take care not to inadvertently reveal the contents of the records being provided.
Requesting In Camera Review
The OOR accepts requests for in camera review from both requesters and agencies. If you believe that an appeal before the OOR would benefit from an in camera review, please contact the assigned appeals officer. Please note that not every request for in camera review will be granted.