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)(2)(A) and reads:
All state, county and municipal records shall, at all times during business hours, which for public hospitals shall be during the business hours of their administrative offices, be open for personal inspection by any citizen of this state, and those in charge of the records shall not refuse such right of inspection to any citizen, unless otherwise provided by state law.