Golden Gate Bridge suicide records
Q: I recently made a request to the Golden Gate Bridge and Transportation District for copies of all incident reports from 2006 regarding suicides at the Golden Gate Bridge, attempted suicides, and interrupted suicides. I had made a similar request for the records from 2004 a few years ago and was provided with the documents I requested. This time, however, the District responded that they had changed their policy and that these incident reports were now prepared at the direction of their attorney and protected. I subsequently asked why the procedures had been changed and they wrote that “the District determined that it would be better served if accident and other incident reporting recognized claim and litigation potential.”
A: The fact that a document may have the potential for resulting in or being relevant to a claim or litigation does NOT mean that it is exempt from disclosure under the Public Records Act. The exemption for pending litigation (in Government Code section 6254(b)) only applies to documents the District acquires or prepares in the litigation process, not for documents that pre-date any litigation and were not created for litigation purposes.
Nor should the District be able to assert that a category of documents it previously released are now exempt on the theory that they are now being prepared at the direction of an attorney. In fact, these are almost certainly documents that the District must create and maintain as a matter of regulation and/or routine, not at direction of counsel.