A&A: How Do I Determine What Records are Available Before Making CPRA Request?

Q: I just want to know the types of records available for cell phone service providers in the California Lifeline program. I want this information so that I can craft a CPRA request that is as narrow as possible. I emailed the administrator of the California Lifeline program at the CA Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and am awaiting a response. Should I make a CPRA request to get the information I need to create my actual CPRA request?

A: Without knowing the substance of the records you’d like to see from the CPUC, my instinct is that it would probably be just as efficient to send just one Public Records Act request describing what you are looking for in terms of public records, rather than first writing to the CPUC to find out what types of records it keeps from California Lifeline providers. The PRA only applies to records, and not information.

Thus, to the extent you are seeking information from the CPUC, you will want to make sure to style your request as seeking records that contain certain categories of information. The CPUC might not necessarily maintain in a single document or set of documents with the universe of records that it receives from Lifeline providers.

Therefore, it is probably best to figure out what categories of information you are seeking in connection with this program, and then send a request for “any records, including [correspondence, memos, electronic communications, etc.” … you can further expand as necessary] that include the information you are looking for.

You can find out more on making a PRA request, including a sample request letter here:

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner 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.  No attorney-client relationship has been formed by way of this response.

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