Wisconsin’s Public Record Laws

The Wisconsin Public Records Law [Wis. Stat. §§ 19.31-19.39] is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to public records of government bodies at all levels. Wisconsin favors broad access to records and the law states, “All persons are entitled to the greatest possible information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts of those officers and employees who represent them. Providing such information is an essential function of a representative government and an integral part of the routine duties of state employees.” The public records law does have some exceptions, and other laws also require that certain information remain confidential. Additionally, the public records law does not require authorities to provide requested information if no responsive record exists, and does not require authorities to create new records in order to fulfill public records requests.

Requesting Records from the University

The Wisconsin public records law authorizes requesters to inspect or obtain copies of records maintained by government authorities. The identity of the requester or the reason why the requester wants particular records generally do not matter for purposes of the public records law. Records are presumed to be open to inspection and copying, but there are some exceptions. Requirements of the public records law apply to records that exist at the time a public records request is made. To make a request contact the institution’s Public Records Custodian.