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A&A: is there a deadline for filing suit over denial of requested records?

Q:  Is there a deadline to file a writ or to initiate litigation upon the denial of a CPRA request?

A:   The Public Records Act (“PRA”) does not provide for a statute of limitations for filing suit to enforce the provisions of the Act, and unfortunately it is not clear whether other general limitations periods provided for in the Code of Civil Procedure would apply to the PRA.  If you feel you have exhausted efforts to work with the agency to get the records that you seek, you might want to consider filing a lawsuit sooner rather than later so as to avoid any claim by the agency that the lawsuit was untimely and therefore should be dismissed.

Government Code Section 6259 allows you to file a lawsuit.  Lawsuits to enforce the PRA are usually initiated by a verified petition (i.e. a request filed under oath) that asks the court to issue a “writ of mandate.”  A writ of mandate is a type of order directing the public agency to take specified actions.  The lawsuit may be filed in the superior court of the county of the agency that is the holder or the records.  Lawsuits against state agencies may be brought in San Francisco County or in any city in which the California attorney general has an office.  Code of Civil Procedure section 401(1).

If you are considering litigation, I recommend that you seek specific legal advice from an attorney.  You may consider using your local Bar Association to find an attorney experienced in open records issues.

Bryan Cave LLP is general counsel for the First Amendment Coalition and responds to FAC hotline inquiries.  In responding to these inquiries, we can give general information regarding open government and speech issues but cannot provide specific legal advice or representation.

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