U Memo 23-03

Posted on Mar 15, 2023 in Informal Opinions - UIPA Opinions

U Memo 23-03
March 15, 2023
No Duty to Search for Land Court Records

Requester asked the Bureau of Conveyances (BOC) for copies of documents related to a property registered in the Land Court of the State of Hawaii (Land Court).  BOC denied the request on the basis that the requested records were either maintained by the Land Court or were not recorded, and were not maintained by BOC.

Normally, when an agency’s response to a record request states that no responsive records exist and that response is appealed, OIP assesses whether the agency’s search for a responsive record was reasonable.  OIP Op. Ltr. No. 97-8 at 4-6.  A reasonable search is one “reasonably calculated to uncover all relevant documents,” and an agency must make “a good faith effort to conduct a search for the requested records, using methods which can be reasonably expected to produce the information request.”  Id. at 5 (citations omitted).  However, in rare cases, an agency’s staff may have actual knowledge that the type of record requested was never created or is not maintained by the agency.  In such cases, an agency may be absolved from having to conduct a search reasonably likely to produce the requested records, because the agency’s staff have actual knowledge that no search is likely to produce such records.  See OIP Op. Ltr. No. F16-03.

OIP found that, based on the evidence provided, BOC had actual knowledge that it did not maintain any documents responsive to Requester’s record request, and that such documents were either maintained by the Land Court or were not recorded at the time the request was made.  Therefore, OIP concluded that BOC was absolved from having to conduct a search likely to produce responsive records.