CaliforniaPublic Records ActThe California Public Records Act (CPRA) was enacted in 1968 in order to guarantee the right of access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business (California Government Code§ 6250.) The Act contains provisions that guarantee the disclosure of public records and recognize a right to privacy; for such reason, the Act contains a list of exemptions.Fundamentals: All agencies, any person, any writing, any timeThis Act applies to :All local agencies: cities, county-cities, counties, school boards, commission, agencies or entities that are legislative bodies of a local agency (§6252 (a));Any member of the publiccan request access (inspection and duplication) of any public record. Public officers are not considered members of the public (§6252(b));Public records defined as any writing held by a local or state government in any shape or format (i.e. e-mail, fax, memo, letter, handwriting, photocopy, letters, word, pictures, sounds, symbols) (§6252 (g));All office hours, access to public records is open at all times during office hours (§6253 (a)).Access to public recordsIn order to gain access to public records, the public and the local agencies must follow certain rules in order to comply with the law. These rules do not apply to records exempted from disclosure.
The request: A personshall make a verbal or written request for inspection and/or duplication. The request shall describe identifiable records as accurately as possible(§6253 (b)). However, recognizing the difficulty of describing records not previously seen, the law provides that the agency assists in the identification process (§6253.1). The agency shall grant access to records upon request (§6253 (b)), but it has up to 10 days to make a determination and grant a response to the requestor (§6253(b)). If special circumstancesapply, the agency may extend the time limit to 14days (§6253 (c)). Time limits shall not be used to delay or obstruct access to the information (§6253 (d)).
Exemptions: The act provides the following exemptions:
Attorney-client information and records concerning agency litigation: records pertaining to pending litigation (§6254(b)); records in the custody of or maintained by the Legislative Counsel (§6254(m)); pending litigations memorandums (§6254.25.);
Deliberative process records (§6254(o-q)), this exemption is thought to be abrogated by the passage of Prop. 59 (please see related document);
Electoral information: recall petitions, memoranda prepared by county elections officials (§6253.5); information of persons who have requested bilingual ballots or ballot pamphlets (§6253.6(a)); personal information submitted for voter registration purposes (§6254.4);
Financial data: applications, examinations, drafts and confidential information related to any state agency responsible for the regulation or supervision of issuance of securities or financial institutions (§6254(d)); records exempted by the Evidence Code relating to privilege (§6254(k)); information required from any taxpayer in connection with the collection of taxes (§6254(i)); data contained in applications for financing (§6254(o)); data found in applications for registration or registration renewal (6254(x));
Intelligence information: security procedures, police incident reports, rap sheets, arrest records, investigative files, (§6254(f)); documents prepared by an agency that assess its vulnerability to a terrorist attack §6254(aa);
Medical records: final accreditation reports (§6254(s)); local hospital district or municipal hospital records related to insurance or non-profit service plan (§6254(t)); records of the Major Risk Medical Insurance Program (§6254(v, w, y, bb, cc));
Personal information of: in-home providers paid by the State §6253.2(a); of financial worth (§6254(n)); personnel, medical, or similar files (§6254(c)); home address and telephone number of peace officers, judges, court commissioners and magistrates (§6254(u)); home addresses (6254.1(a-b)); electronically collected personal information (§6254); home addresses and home telephone numbers of school district or county office of education employees (§6254.3);
Preliminary records not ordinarily retained in the ordinary course of business and which the public interest in non disclosure clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure (§6254(a));
Real estate information: geological and geophysical data obtained in confidence from any person (§6254(e)); real estateappraisal, engineering, and feasibility estimates and evaluations made for a local agency relative to the acquisition of property (§6254(h));
Other records such as: examination data used to administer licensing information (§6254(g)); licenses to carry arms (§6254(u)); vehicular test results (§6254(c)); library circulation records (§6254(j)); correspondence of and to the Governor and employees of the Governor’s office or in the custody of or maintained by the Governor’s Legal Affairs Secretary (§6254(l)); native American sites (§6254(r)); public utility records (§6254(z)); private industry wage data (§6254.6);data used to calculate the costs of emissions offsets (§6254.7(f)); computer software developed by an agency (§6254.9)
If access to information subject to exemptions has been granted to a member of the public, the disclosure shall constitute a waiver from all exemptions. Access to information has to be granted equally to every member of the public (§6254.5.)
The agency shall justify the withholding any record by demonstrating that the record is in fact exempt under the provisions of the law (§6255 (a))
A response that denying access shall be done in writing (§6255 (b))
Access to a record shall not be denied based on the purpose for which the record is being requested (§6257.5)
A person may seek judicial remedies to enforce his or her rights to inspect or receive a copy of any public record(§6258) and the court shall make the final decision on to whether the refusal was justified or not, ordering either disclosure or supporting the agency’s non-disclosure decision (§6259)
E-mails as public recordsUnder the CPRA e-mails, as well as other written communications are subject to disclosure since they qualify as written records. The rules of disclosure for e-mails are the same ones that apply to any other record, that is, they shall relate to official public business and the content shall not be exempt from disclosure. E-mails exempt from disclosure are the ones that are considered to be personal, that is, the content is not germane to the conduct of city business, or they are generated from constituents addressed to an elected official, unless they are sent to the majority of the elected body and pertain to a matter that is subject to discussion or consideration at a meeting of the body.Unless otherwise prohibited by law, any agency that has information that constitutes an identifiable public record not exempt from disclosure pursuant to this chapter that is in an electronic format shall make that information available in anelectronic format when requested by any person§6253.9 (a)Samples:Letter template from the California Newspapers Publishers Association: http://www.cnpa.com/Leg/GA/cpraltr.htmLetter template from the California First Amendment Coalition:http://www.cfac.org/templates/letters.html
Herein after we will refer to the California Public Records Act simply as “CPRA”. In addition, all statutory references correspond to the California Government Code unless otherwise noted.
A person might be a natural person or a corporation, partnership, limited liability company, firm or association §6252 (c).
Unusual circumstances apply to the request because: (1) the material needs to be searched for and collected from other facilities; (2) the material needs to be examined given its volume; (3) the agency needs consultation with another agency; or, (4) the agency needs to compile data (§6253 (c)(1-4).)