Public Records Requests: The Underutilized Discovery Tactic

Attorneys have many methods of obtaining discovery in their arsenals. However, it appears that one obvious method is underutilized in the legal community: public records requests (PRRs). PRRs have many benefits and used correctly, can provide useful records to support the defense in certain cases.


A PRR is a request made under a state’s public records laws (in Idaho that is the Idaho Public Records Act) to obtain records maintained by a governmental agency. The federal equivalent of a PRR is a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. See – Freedom of Information Act. The purpose behind public records laws is to ensure government transparency. See Idaho Attorney General’s Public Records Law Manual (“The public records law protects each citizen’s right to monitor the actions of state and local government entities by providing access to government records.”).

Considering the large number of government agencies across the nation, there is also a large volume of records obtainable via PRRs, such as marriage, birth, and death records; property records; court records; 911 recordings; law enforcement on-body video recordings; government employee income; etc. 


There are two major benefits to PRRs: speed and cost. Oftentimes, attorneys can get records quicker and cheaper using a PRR than through the normal discovery process. For instance, in Idaho, a party has 30 days to respond to requests for production. See I.R.C.P. 34. Under Idaho’s PRR Act, though, an agency is supposed to grant or deny a PRR within three days, but the agency can have up to 10 days to respond if needed. See I.R.C.P. 74-103. In addition, PRRs are typically inexpensive. Idaho law does not allow agencies to charge anything in responding to a PRR if the agency spends less than two hours of labor in responding to the PRR and as long as the records requested are 100 or fewer pages. See I.R.C.P. 74-102. If the request requires more than two hours of labor or more than 100 pages, the agency can still only charge the hourly rate of its lowest-paid employee who can accomplish the task. Id.


  • If a police report ever seems summary or inadequate, submit a PRR; agencies often draft supplemental reports that are missed in the first record exchange.
  • Obtain 911 recordings and on-body video for every motor vehicle collision.
  • Use PRRs to find out information about government employees, including position and pay.

Please contact a Gjording Fouser lawyer at 208.336.9777 if you would like any additional information about this topic or any other issues facing your company.