Code of the District of Columbia

§ 2–537. Administrative appeals.

(a) Except as provided in subsections (a-1) and (a-2) of this section, any person denied the right to inspect a public record of a public body may petition the Mayor to review the public record to determine whether it may be withheld from public inspection. Such determination shall be made in writing with a statement of reasons therefor in writing within 10 days (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays) of the submission of the petition.

(1) If the Mayor denies the petition or does not make a determination within the time limits provided in this subsection, or if a person is deemed to have exhausted his or her administrative remedies pursuant to subsection (e) of § 2-532, the person seeking disclosure may institute proceedings for injunctive or declaratory relief in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia.

(2) If the Mayor decides that the public record may not be withheld, he shall order the public body to disclose the record immediately. If the public body continues to withhold the record, the person seeking disclosure may bring suit in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia to enjoin the public body from withholding the record and to compel the production of the requested record.

(a-1) Any person denied the right to inspect a public record in the possession of the Council may institute proceedings in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia for injunctive or declaratory relief, or for an order to enjoin the public body from withholding the record and to compel the production of the requested record.

(a-2) Any person denied the right to inspect a public record in the possession of the Attorney General may institute proceedings in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia for injunctive or declaratory relief, or for an order to enjoin the public body from withholding the record and to compel the production of the requested record.

(b) In any suit filed under subsection (a), (a-1), or (a-2) of this section, the Superior Court for the District of Columbia may enjoin the public body from withholding records and order the production of any records improperly withheld from the person seeking disclosure. The burden is on the public agency to sustain its action. In such cases the court shall determine the matter de novo, and may examine the contents of such records in camera to determine whether such records or any part thereof shall be withheld under any of the exemptions set forth in § 2-534.

(c) If a person seeking the right to inspect or to receive a copy of a public record prevails in whole or in part in such suit, he or she may be awarded reasonable attorney fees and other costs of litigation.

(d) Any person who commits an arbitrary or capricious violation of the provisions of this subchapter shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction shall be punished by a fine not to exceed $100.00. A prosecution under this section may only be commenced by the issuance of a citation, which shall be personally served upon the defendant. The defendant shall not be arrested prior to the time of trial, except that a defendant who fails to appear for arraignment or trial may be arrested pursuant to a bench warrant and required to post a bond to secure his or her future appearance.

(e) All employees of the District government are responsible for compliance with the provisions of this subchapter, and this requirement shall be incorporated in section 1803 of Title 6 of the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations.


(Oct. 21, 1968, Pub. L. 90-614, title II, § 207; as added Mar. 29, 1977, D.C. Law 1-96, § 2, 23 DCR 3744; Apr. 27, 2001, D.C. Law 13-283, § 3(f), 48 DCR 1917; Oct. 26, 2001, D.C. Law 14-42, § 3(a), 48 DCR 7612; Mar. 13, 2004, D.C. Law 15-105, § 26(a), 51 DCR 881; Mar. 17, 2005, D.C. Law 15-256,§ 2(c), 52 DCR 1158; Mar. 2, 2007, D.C. Law 16-191, § 120, 53 DCR 6794; Oct. 22, 2015, D.C. Law 21-36, § 1035, 62 DCR 10905.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 1-1527.

1973 Ed., § 1-1527.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 2-532, § 2-533, and § 2-538.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 13-283, in subsec. (b), substituted “public body” for “Mayor or the agency”; and added subsecs. (d) and (e).

D.C. Law 14-42, in subsec. (e), substituted “ section 1803 of Title 6 of the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations” for “section 1803 of the District of Columbia Personnel Regulations”.

D.C. Law 15-105, in subsec. (a), validated previously made technical corrections.

D.C. Law 15-256, in subsec. (a), substituted “Except as provided in subsection (a-1), any person” for “Any person”; added subsec. (a-1); and, in subsec. (b), substituted “subsection (a) or (a-1)” for “subsection (a)”.

D.C. Law 16-191, in subsec. (a), validated a previously made technical correction.

The 2015 amendment by D.C. Law 21-36 substituted “subsections (a-1) and (a-2)” for “subsection (a-1)” in (a); added (a-2); and substituted “subsection (a), (a-1), or (a-2)” for “subsection (a) or (a-1)” in (b).

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 3(a) of Technical Amendments Emergency Act of 2001 (D.C. Act 14-108, August 3, 2001, 48 DCR 7622).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see §§ 2(b) and 3 of Freedom of Information Legislative Records Clarification Emergency Amendment Act of 2003 (D.C. Act 15-190, October 24, 2003, 50 DCR 9499).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(b) of Freedom of Information Legislative Records Clarification Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2004 (D.C. Act 15-372, February 19, 2004, 51 DCR 2611).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(c) of Freedom of Information Legislative Records Clarification Emergency Amendment Act of 2004 (D.C. Act 15-591, November 1, 2004, 51 DCR 10729).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(c) of Freedom of Information Legislative Records Clarification Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2005 (D.C. Act 16-23, February 17, 2005, 52 DCR 2975).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see § 1062 of the Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Support Emergency Act of 2015 (D.C. Act 21-127, July 27, 2015, 62 DCR 10201).

Temporary Legislation

For temporary (225 day) amendment of section, see § 2(b) of the Freedom of Information Legislative Records Clarification Temporary Amendment Act of 2003 (D.C. Law 15-83, March 10, 2004, law notification 51 DCR 3375).

Editor's Notes

The Law Effective Date Notice for D.C. Law 1-96, published on April 8, 1977, was incorrect and was corrected on June 3, 1977, and published at 23 DCR 9532b.

Section 3 of D.C. Law 15-256 provided: “Sec. 3. Applicability. This act shall apply with respect to any requests for records pending on the effective date of this act, whether or not the request was made prior to that date, and shall apply to any civil action pending on that date.”

Delegation of Authority

Delegation of Authority—Secretary of the District of Columbia, see Mayor’s Order 95-26, January 27, 1995.

Delegation of Authority—Office of the Secretary, see Mayor’s Order 97-87, May 6, 1997 ( 44 DCR 2958).

Delegation of Authority to Review and Determine Administrative Petitions or Appeals filed under the Freedom of Information Act, see Mayor’s Order 2004-205, December 29, 2004 ( 52 DCR 87).

Delegation of Authority to Review and Determine Administrative Petitions or Appeals Filed Under the Freedom of Information Act, see Mayor’s Order 2005-98, June 14, 2005 ( 52 DCR 8164).

Delegation of Authority to Review and Determine Administrative Petitions or Appeals Filed Under the Freedom of Information Act, see Mayor’s Order 2005-190, December 2, 2005 ( 53 DCR 694).

Delegation of authority to Review and Determine Administrative Petitions or Appeals Filed Under the Freedom of Information Act, see Mayor’s Order 2007-62, March 6, 2007 ( 54 DCR 7788).

Redelegation of Authority Under D.C. Law 1-96, the Freedom of Information Act of 1976; Rescission of Mayor’s Order 87-6: See Mayor’s Order 89-188, August 30, 1989.