Q: I was just trying to find out if I have any rights to see my own personal file in New Mexico that contains a complaint I filed with the state medical board against a doctor. They have twice refused me access to my file. Both times confidentiality is the stated reason for denying me access. My own file is too confidential for me to see?
A: We are more familiar with California’s public records laws, but we note that New Mexico has an Inspection of Public Records Act, set forth at NMSA 1978 § 14-2 et seq. The IPRA provides that “Every person has a right to inspect public records of this state” unless an exemption applies. § 14-2-1. The New Mexico Attorney General maintains an IPRA Compliance Guide, available here, that explains how state agencies are obligated to comply with the IPRA and how its exemptions function. You may wish to review this guide to determine if the NMMB has cited a valid exemption.
The IPRA contains numerous exemptions for certain records, including law enforcement records pursuant to the exemption in § 14-2-1(D). It is possible that your complaint was made part of a law enforcement record, and is now exempt from disclosure. It is also possible that your complaint falls under one of the exemptions listed on pages 16-20 of the NM AG’s Compliance Guide. In any event, our brief research did not disclose any definitive authority as to whether you have a right to access the specific complaint you filed after it has been submitted to a state agency.
We note that the IPRA provides that the attorney general, district attorney, or any “person whose written request has been denied” may bring an action to enforce the IPRA. § 14-2-12. Assuming you made a written request and were denied, you could be able to file a lawsuit to enforce the IPRA. If you are successful in proving a violation of the IPRA, then the court may order the records produced and award you damages. As such, you may wish to bring your concerns to the AG or local district attorney’s office, or discuss the possibility of litigation with an attorney.
We recommend speaking with a local lawyer, who can provide you with more expertise on New Mexico’s public records laws, as well as legal advice more specific to your situation. A good place to look for one would be the State Bar of New Mexico’s lawyer referral service, which can be found here.
Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP is general counsel for the First Amendment Coalition and responds to FAC hotline inquiries. In responding to these inquiries, we can give general information regarding open government and speech issues but cannot provide specific legal advice or representation. No attorney-client relationship has been formed by way of this response.