Date of Award

December 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Media Studies

First Advisor

Dave Pritchard

Committee Members

David Allen, Robert Dreps


Attorney General, Open Meetings Law, Public Records Law, Wisconsin


This study investigates how the Wisconsin attorney general reviews and sometimes intervenes in access disputes over the state's public records law. The study posed three primary questions: How do the attorney general's administrative review mechanisms operate in practice? To what extent are the mechanisms effective at resolving disclosure disputes? And do the mechanisms help people unable to hire a lawyer to litigate? The study analyzed correspondence in 304 cases over six years to generate data on the quantity and nature of the attorney general's caseload in that time period. The study also interviewed 17 requesters to understand their disputes, their perceptions of the attorney general, and the outcomes of their cases. In short, the study revealed a wide range of data about who uses the attorney general's mechanisms, the authorities involved in disputes, the main issues underlying disputes, and the types of action the attorney general's office took in disputes. The study also found that the attorney general's administrative review mechanisms have the capacity to help resolve disclosure disputes, though in some cases requesters reported that the attorney general was not helpful. The study further found that when the attorney general's office intervenes, it often works with parties to informally resolve disputes and almost never takes formal legal action to enforce the public records law.