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Non-Responsive Information in a Responsive Record

July 8, 2016 - Sharon Young, Analyst

FOIP and LA FOIP provides specific exemptions that public bodies must or may apply when preparing records for release in response to an access to information request. There are circumstances in which a public body may consider information within a record to be non- responsive and have to decide whether to sever such information on that basis. Below are some guidelines to consider when determining whether information within a record is non-responsive or not.

1. Interpretation of the Request

The request itself defines the boundaries of relevancy the records which will ultimately be identified as being responsive to the request. A public body should adopt a liberal interpretation of a request to best serve the purpose of FOIP and LA FOIP. If it is unclear what the Applicant wants based on the request, the public body should contact the Applicant for clarification.

When reviewing a record, anything that is reasonably related to the request should be considered responsive to the request.

2. Records versus Information

If the Applicant has requested records, then the whole record will generally be considered responsive to a request. Portions of the records generally cannot be considered non-responsive unless those portions of the records are clearly separate and distinct and entirely unrelated to the access request.

If the Applicant has requested specific information, such as his or her personal information, then the public body can remove information within a record if the severed information is clearly separate, distinct, or unrelated to the access request.

3. Practical Considerations

Once it has been determined that information is non-responsive in a record, but it’s just as easy to release the information, then the information can be released. This can save the public body the trouble of preparing a severed record for release.

4. Communicate

If a public body has severed information because it has determined the information to be non-responsive, then the public body should explain the basis for making such a determination in its section 7 response to the Applicant.

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