The California Judicial Council approved a new Rule of Court this week giving the public a right of access to administrative records of Superior and Appellate courts and the Administrative Office of the Courts. The rule will be in effect January of next year and is modeled after the California Public Records Act. -DB
California Newspaper Publishers Association
December 16, 2009
At its meeting in San Francisco yesterday, the California Judicial Council approved on a voice vote a new Rule of Court to provide the public with a right of access to the administrative records of Superior and Appellate courts and the Administrative Office of the Courts. The rule, which becomes effective January 1, 2010, is modeled after the California Public Records Act. Here is the report prepared by Judicial Council staff on the proposed rule and the council’s press release announcing the rule’s adoption.
The proposed rule has been substantially amended since it was first proposed in September and in many ways is now consistent, in principle if not actual language, with the CPRA. Following is a summary of the key provisions of the proposed rule as well as CNPA staff’s observations:
In light of the strong opposition to the high fee approach, Judicial Council staff presented the council with the fee-for-records proposal and an alternative proposal that would, for non-commercial requesters, track closely with the CPRA approach and only allow recovery of the direct costs of duplication. Commercial requesters, in both approaches, is defined to not include media requesters.
After a lengthy discussion, the council adopted the direct cost of duplication version, with the proviso that it will be reviewed in two years to determine the impact of requests on trial courts. The rule specifies that non-commercial requesters can only be charged the direct cost of duplication (established as a $.10 per page charge) and the costs, if any, of retrieving a requested record from a remote storage facility or archive and for mailing the record. Commercial requesters would pay all costs associated with searching for, retrieving and reviewing the requested records. Requests from media would not be considered commercial requests. This option also permits individual courts to establish a different fee representing the direct costs of duplication if it can demonstrate the $.10 per page fee is insufficient. The alternative provision would create a $1.5 million fund in the Administrative Office of the Courts from which local courts could seek reimbursement for costs in excess of those established by the provision, although the Council had a lengthy discussion about returning to the legislature to seek a direct appropriation for the increased costs.
CNPA and the access coalition were able to effect many other changes in the proposal to make it consistent with the CPRA, including, for example: the definitions of “records” and “writings,” the time limits for compliance with a request, access to electronically held records, the preliminary draft, personnel records and agency-created software exemptions.
Obviously, the proposal is not perfect. Keeping in mind that the Judicial Council has been tasked with creating a rule of court to govern its own conduct, staff believes everyone involved has worked in good faith to create a rule that will secure substantial new rights for the public and one that is worthy of newspaper support. For more information about the new rule please contact Tom Newton at 916.288.6015 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Jim Ewert at 916.288.6015 or email@example.com.
Copyright 2009 California Newspaper Publishers Association