How long does an authority/records custodian have to answer a request
for public records?
The public records law provides that an authority must either fulfill a public records request or notify the requester of the authority’s determination to deny the request in whole or in part and provide the reasons therefor "as soon as practicable and without delay." Wis. Stat. § 19.35(4)(a). The statutes do not define “as soon as practicable and without delay” with a specific timeframe. However, the Wisconsin Department of Justice (“DOJ”) Public Records Law Compliance Guide provides some guidance on what may constitute a reasonable response time: “DOJ policy is that 10 working days generally is a reasonable time for responding to a simple request for a limited number of easily identifiable records. For requests that are broader in scope, or that require location, review, or redaction of many documents, a reasonable time for responding may be longer…What constitutes a reasonable time for a response to any specific request depends on the nature of the request, the staff and other resources available to the authority to process the request, the extent of the request, and related considerations.” Department of Justice Public Records Law Compliance Guide, p. 15 (October 2019).