The Arizona Legislature is considering a pair of bills that would limit public access to government records and make it more difficult for individuals to recoup legal costs in battles with the government over those records.
Supporters said the intent is to protect crime victims and witnesses and to prevent individuals from using records requests to harass local governments. Opponents argued the legislation goes far beyond that, and will severely limit the public’s access to nearly all government records.
House Bill 2383 would prevent the public from accessing crime photos of any victim or any minor — whether a victim, witness or convicted criminal — unless a court decides the public interest outweighs the witness’ or victim’s right to privacy. It would prevent the public from accessing any personal identifying information of a witness of any age unless the witness agrees to it in writing or a court orders it disclosed.
It would also limit when the court can award attorney fees in cases where the government loses a fight over access to any sort of public record.
Senate Bill 1282 would require records requests to be reasonably narrow and would permit government officials to deny any request that is “unduly burdensome or harassing.” The bill doesn’t define burdensome or harassing.