Accessing Public Records: The California Public Records Act
A FAC Open Government Primer
“A popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring
it, is but a prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy.”
A. Basic structure.
All public records are subject to disclosure unless they fall within one of the exemptions articulated in the Public Records Act (“PRA”).1
B. “Public records” broadly defined.
The definition of public records in the PRA includes most documents generated or used by the government.2
C. Numerous exemptions.
The PRA is subject to numerous exemptions. There are a number of categorical exemptions in Government Code section 6254, which are often invoked by public agencies in denying access to records. There is a general “Catch-All” exemption created by Government Code section 6255. In addition, there are several hundred not included in the PRA itself, but set forth in other statutes and incorporated into the PRA under Government Code section 6254(k). Government Code sections 6275-6276.48 provide a list of many (but not all) of the statutes that may limit disclosure of information contained in public records.
- II. Agencies and documents governed by the Act? & III. What are public records?
- IV. How to gain access to public records?
- V. Exemptions
- VI. Required law enforcement disclosures