CPRA request response time
Q: I recently submitted a request for records under the California Public Records Act to a State University. I issued the request in hard format to the University and had the secretary date, stamp it and make a copy for me. I have not heard back from the University. According to the law they are required to notify me within ten business days. I called much later and they had no response for me except for the request is being sent ‘across campus’.
A: As you may know, the Public Records Act (“PRA”) provides that agencies “shall make . . . records promptly available.” Gov’t. Code § 6253(b). The PRA further provides that agencies “shall, within 10 days from receipt of the request, determine whether the request, in whole or in part, seeks copies of disclosable public records in the possession of the agency and shall promptly notify the person making the request of the determination and the reasons therefor.” Gov’t. Code § 6253(c).
Although “[i]n unusual circumstances, the time limit prescribed in this section may be extended by written notice by the head of the agency or his or her designee to the person making the request, setting forth the reasons for the extension and the date on which a determination is expected to be dispatched,” it sounds like you have received no such written notice. Id. Furthermore, “[n]o notice shall specify a date that would result in an extension for more than 14 days.” Id. As a practical matter, one option would be to send a letter to the University Counsel, desscribing your original request, explaining that the school is in violation of the PRA, and perhaps directing his attention to Section 6259(d) of the Government Code, which provides that “[t]he court shall award court costs and reasonable attorney fees to the plaintiff should the plaintiff prevail in litigation filed pursuant to this section.” In fact, if an agency releases the disputed records after the plaintiff has filed a suit to compel their disclosure and if the release is demonstrably based on the suit, the plaintiff is entitled to costs and fees even though the matter did not result in a court judgment. Belth v. Garamendi, 232 Cal. App. 3d 896 (1991).