The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Tennessee County Municipal Advisory Service

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Municipal Open Records Guide

Reference Number: MTAS-433
Tennessee Code Annotated
Reviewed Date: March 22, 2013
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The public’s inherent right to inspect government records has officially been recognized by the state of Tennessee for more than 100 years. See State ex rel. Wellford v. Williams, 110 Tenn. 549 (Tenn. 1902). This right was statutorily adopted in 1957 by the enactment of the Tennessee Public Records Act (hereinafter “the act”). This law has since been amended by statute and interpreted by case law. From inception, the law in this arena has stressed disclosure wherever possible and struck down any avoidable barrier to public access.

The general rule of the Tennessee Public Records Act is found at T.C.A. § 10-7-503(a) and reads:

All state, county and municipal records and all records maintained by the Tennessee Performing Arts Center Management Corporation, except any public documents authorized to be destroyed by the county public records commission in accordance with T.C.A. § 10-7-404, shall at all times, during business hours, be open for personal inspection by any citizen of Tennessee, and those in charge of such records shall not refuse such right of inspection to any citizen, unless otherwise provided by state law.