FAQ: Does the Right-to-Know Law apply to the courts?
Short answer: No.
Long answer: The N.H. Right-to-Know Law, RSA 91-A, does not apply to the courts or any part of the judicial branch in our state. It only applies to certain executive and legislative agencies and bodies. Section RSA 91-A:1-a lists which public agencies, RSA 91-A:1-a, V, and public bodies, RSA 91-A:1-a, VI, the law applies to, and these lists do not include any part of the judiciary.
Even though the statute does not apply to the courts, public access to judicial records and meetings is a constitutional right in New Hampshire. Part 1, Article 8 of the N.H. Constitution provides that “the public’s right of access to governmental proceedings and records shall not be unreasonably restricted.” This applies to all three branches of government, including the judicial branch. This right is further strengthened by Part 1, Article 7, that “[t]he people of the state have the sole and exclusive right of governing themselves”, and by Part 1, Article 22, that “[f]ree speech and liberty of the press are … to be inviolably preserved.” See, Petition of Keene Sentinel, 136 N.H. 121, 126 (1992).
For more details, see these court orders:
- Associated Press v. State of N.H., 153 N.H. 120 (2005)
- Petition of Keene Sentinel, 136 N.H. 121 (1992)