CPRA Primer: What agencies and documents are governed by the Act

CPRA-Public Records ActII. What agencies are governed by the Act?

 

A.    State: All state agencies except legislative and judicial agencies.

    • Courts and court administrative bodies (such as the Judicial Council and the Administrative Office of the Courts) are not subject to the PRA. Access to court records is governed by constitutional and common law principles established by case law, by the California Rules of Court, and by separate statutes governing certain court records.
    • State legislative records not available under PRA. There is a separate statute that governs records of the Legislature (the Legislative Open Records Act).

B.    Local: All local agencies, including school districts and any board or commission of a city, county, municipal corporation or other political subdivision. Note: If a public body is subject to the Brown Act, it is also subject to the PRA.

C.   Proposition 59: The coverage of Proposition 59 (Article I, section 3(b) of the California Constitution) appears to be broader than that of the PRA. Specifically, courts and court administrative bodies may be subject to a constitutional right of access under Proposition 59.

III. What are public records?

 A.    Writing.

Includes handwritings, photographs, films, sound recordings, maps, magnetic tape, computer disks-virtually any means of recording any form of communication.

 Computer data is clearly within the definition of a public record.

 B.    Containing information relating to the conduct of the public’s business.

1.     The requirement that a record relate to the conduct of the public’s business is broadly construed, and rarely contested.

2.     According to the legislative history of the PRA:This definition is intended to cover every conceivable kind of record that is involved in the governmental process. . . . Only purely personal information unrelated to “the conduct of the public’s business” could be considered exempt from this definition, i.e., the shopping list phoned from home, the letter to a public officer from a friend which is totally void of reference to governmental activities.

3.     Includes the names of public employees, although it may not include home addresses and phone numbers of state employees. Note, however, that access to names of public officials and employees is increasingly disputed. Seeking access to names of pubic employees who are the subjects of investigations or controversies may be justified. However, as a practical matter, you will probably get more information sooner if you agree that names of such employees can be withheld.

4.     Note that the names and contract information for private citizens may also be exempt from disclosure, particularly those who submit information or complaints to the government with an expectation of confidentiality. Agreeing to allow public agencies to withhold such information may also expedite a request.

C.   Prepared, owned, used or retained by state or local agency. 

The records do not necessarily have to be in the actual custody of the public agency, if they are prepared, owned, or used by the agency.

D.    Regardless of physical form or characteristics.

Information retained in a electronic format must be made available in any electronic form in which the agency holds the information.

 

 NOTES

3. Gov’t Code § 6252(a).
4. Gov’t Code §§ 9070-9080.
5. Gov’t Code § 6252(b).
6. Article I, Section 3(b)(1) of the California Constitution provides as follows: “The people have the right of access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business, and, therefore, the meeting of public bodies and the writings of public officials and agencies shall be open to public scrutiny.” Although other provisions of Proposition 59 limit its application to the Legislature, nothing in Proposition 59 expressly limits exempts or limits its application to the judicial branch of the government. However, the application of Proposition 59 to the courts or court administrative bodies has not yet been determined.
7. Gov’t Code § 6252(g).
8. Gov’t Code §§ 6252(e), 6253.9.
9. See, e.g., California State University v. Superior Court, 90 Cal. App. 4th 810, 824-25 (2001); San Gabriel Tribune
v. Superior Court, 143 Cal. App. 3d 762, 774 (1983).
10. Assembly Comm. on Statewide Information Policy, Appendix 1 to Journal of Assembly (1970 Reg. Sess.) Final
Report p. 9.
11. See, e.g., New York Times Co. v. Superior Court, 52 Cal. App. 4th 97 (1997).
12. See, e.g., Gov’t Code § 6254.3 (exempting home address and telephone numbers of state employees and employees of school districts and county offices of education); Gov’t Code § 6254.4 (home address, telephone number, and other information shown on voter registration card are exempt); Gov’t Code § 6254.21 (home address or telephone number of any elected or appointed official not to be posted on the Internet).
13. See, e.g., Bakersfield City School Dist. v. Superior Court, 118 Cal. App. 4th 1041, 1045-46 (2004); American
Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees v. Regents of the University of California, 80 Cal. App. 3d
913, 918 (1978).
14. Gov’t Code § 6253.9(a).

3. Gov’t Code § 6252(a).
4. Gov’t Code §§ 9070-9080.
5. Gov’t Code § 6252(b).
6. Article I, Section 3(b)(1) of the California Constitution provides as follows: “The people have the right of access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business, and, therefore, the meeting of public bodies and the writings of public officials and agencies shall be open to public scrutiny.” Although other provisions of Proposition 59 limit its application to the Legislature, nothing in Proposition 59 expressly limits exempts or limits its application to the judicial branch of the government. However, the application of Proposition 59 to the courts or court administrative bodies has not yet been determined.
8. Gov’t Code §§ 6252(e), 6253.9.
9. See, e.g., California State University v. Superior Court, 90 Cal. App. 4th 810, 824-25 (2001); San Gabriel Tribune
v. Superior Court, 143 Cal. App. 3d 762, 774 (1983).
10. Assembly Comm. on Statewide Information Policy, Appendix 1 to Journal of Assembly (1970 Reg. Sess.) Final
Report p. 9.
11. See, e.g., New York Times Co. v. Superior Court, 52 Cal. App. 4th 97 (1997).
12. See, e.g., Gov’t Code § 6254.3 (exempting home address and telephone numbers of state employees and employees of school districts and county offices of education); Gov’t Code § 6254.4 (home address, telephone number, and other information shown on voter registration card are exempt); Gov’t Code § 6254.21 (home address or telephone number of any elected or appointed official not to be posted on the Internet).
13. See, e.g., Bakersfield City School Dist. v. Superior Court, 118 Cal. App. 4th 1041, 1045-46 (2004); American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees v. Regents of the University of California, 80 Cal. App. 3d 913, 918 (1978).
14. Gov’t Code § 6253.9(a).