Michigan's Freedom of Information Act (Public Act 442 of 1976), or FOIA, states "it is the public policy of this state that all persons . . . are entitled to full and complete information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts of those who represent them as public officials and public employees . . . . The people shall be informed so that they may fully participate in the democratic process."

Consequently, any person has the right to inspect and/or receive copies of "public records" by filing a FOIA request letter.

A "public record" is very broadly defined as any writing (including pictures, recordings, electronic media and any other means of recording content) prepared, owned, used, or in the possession of an official government body in the performance of an official function.

While Michigan's FOIA does exempt a number of public records from disclosure, the courts continue to liberally construe the types of records available to the public. For example, in 1997 the Michigan Supreme Court held that a parent could obtain access to a public school teacher's personnel file, including written performance appraisals and disciplinary actions, when requested under Michigan's Freedom of Information Act.

For more information on Michigan's Freedom of Information Act, visit www.libofmich.lib.mi.us/law/publicacts/foia.html.

The Michigan Press Association has a FOIA request letter generator at www.michiganpress.org/usethisone/foiagenerator.htm.