South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Agency Must Provide All Documents Requested Under Right-to-Know Law
Description

New Hampshire high court held that a state agency violated the state Right-to-Know Law by not providing public documents when requested.

Topic Administrative Law
Key Words

Right-to-Know; Compliance; Document Release

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

ATV Watch is a non-profit organization that monitors the use and development of ATV trails in New Hampshire. It filed a Right-to-Know request with the state Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED) about its intended purchase of some land and its plan to develop an ATV trail once the land was bought. DRED provided some documents, but withheld others. ATV Watch sued for unlawful retention of public documents. During a hearing at the trial court, DRED produced more documents. The trial court then held the dispute to be moot. ATV then requested attorney fees and cost, contending it should not have to have sued to get the documents, but was denied. ATV appealed.

Decision

Affirmed in part, reversed in part. The release of all requested documents by DRED did not make the issue moot under the Right-to-Know Law. If DRED violated the law, ATV Watch could be entitled to an injunction and an award of attorney fees and costs. State agencies have a statutory duty to provide opportunities for public input regarding the development of ATV trails on public lands. DRED violated the Right-to-Know Law by delaying providing the documents until the hearing in court. Since ATV Watch represented itself in court, it was not entitled to attorney fees.

Citation

ATV Watch v. New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development, 923 A.2d 1061 (Sup. Ct., N.H., 2007)

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