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California Public Records Act

The purpose of the California Public Records Act (“PRA”) is to provide the public with access to information in the possession of public agencies. The general rule is that all public records are subject to disclosure unless the legislature has expressly provided to the contrary.

Public Record Defined
Public records include any writing containing information relating to the conduct of the public’s business that is prepared, owned, used, or retained by any state or local agency regardless of physical form or characteristics. If part of the record is exempt, the agency is required to produce the segregable portion of the record.

Request for Public Records
Requests for public records must be reasonably focused and specific. The public agency is obligated to assist the requesting party in framing the request if the initial request is misguided. An agency is obliged to comply with a request under the PRA so long as the record can be located with reasonable effort and the request does not fall within one of the many exceptions to the PRA.

The Following Categories of Records May Be Exempt From Disclosure:
  • Preliminary drafts, notes, or interagency or intra-agency memoranda that are not retained by the public agency in the ordinary course of business, if the public interest in withholding those records clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure.
  • The home addresses and telephone numbers of state employees and employees of LEAs, subject to specific statutory exceptions.
  • Other than individual examinations issued to a pupil and scored, test questions or materials that would be used to administer an examination and are provided by the State Department of Education and administered as part of a statewide testing program of pupils enrolled in the public schools, upon the request of any member of the legislature or upon request of the Governor or his or her designee.
  • Security record of a public agency that would reveal vulnerabilities in its information technology systems.
  • Electronically collected personal information received, collected, or compiled by a state agency.

Timeline to Produce Records
An agency has 10 days to decide if copies will be provided. In “unusual” cases (request is “voluminous,” seeks records held off-site, or requires consultation with other agencies), the agency may upon written notice to the requestors give itself an additional 14 days to respond. These time periods may not be used solely to delay access to the records.