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Calendar page for May1 National Law Day

In 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower established Law Day, May 1, as a day of national dedication to the principles of government under law.…

The firmly established principle that the public has a right to know how its government functions was threatened in the 2024 Regular Session of Kentucky's General Assembly. Frankfort lawmakers exploited a dangerous interpretation of the law advanced by the Office of the Attorney General in a proposed amendment to the open records law that struck at the foundation of the law and threatened the principle that "it is the nature and purpose of the document, not the place where it is kept, that determines its status as a public record."

Make no mistake about just how foundational that principle is. It means, for example:

A public agency cannot avoid disclosure of a settlement agreement by storing the agreement in its private 
insurer carrier's office.

A contract city attorney cannot conceal the records of the agency they serve by storing the city records in their law office file cabinet.

A professor cannot avoid the open records law by forwarding his public email to a personal account.

How do we know this?

The following open records decisions tell us so:

00-ORD-207 (settlement agreement)

04-ORD-123 (city drainage records)

17-ORD-273 (UK professor's public email)

How do we locate these open records decisions?

It's a lot simpler than it once was. The answer?

The Kentucky Open Government Coalition's Sunshine Law Library.

The library is "a free, public resource dedicated to providing an in-depth understanding of Kentucky's open records and meetings laws. The library offers access to the largest free collection of Kentucky Attorney General Opinions & Decisions (1977-present), along with additional primary resources including statutes and annotations and opinions issued by federal and state courts interpreting our Sunshine Laws."

The Library's search feature is also free, very easy to use, and remarkably effective. For example, to locate the settlement agreement open records decision, we searched "settlement agreement insurance."

These resources are now at the public's fingertips. With a little practice and some patience, you will become an effective researcher. The legal playing field between you and the public agency will begin to level as you approach  open records and open meetings issues with the same knowledge that public agencies have.

And did we mention that it's free?

Please take a moment to visit the Kentucky Open Government Coalition's Sunshine Law Library. Read a bit about it, then plunge in by conducting your own search. Make the Library a regular tool in your open government toolkit!

How better to celebrate National Law Day than by rededicating ourselves to the principles of open government under the law? This year we do so with a hard fought battle for the preservation of our right to know just behind us.

This year we do so, for the first time, equipped with the power that knowledge provides.

The battle for open government begins anew.