A&A: Does the California Public Records Act Allow Agencies to Extend Deadline for Retrieving Records from 14-Days to Months?

Q: I submitted a public records request about six weeks ago. The state agency responded promptly requesting a lengthy extension. Are they allowed to ask for so much time to gather records? When are they only allowed a 14-day extension and when can they claim they need more time?

I did not push when they asked for more time because I was busy with other projects. Now I’m wondering, should I have been more assertive when they asked for a six-week extension?

A: The California Public Records Act (“CPRA”) gives public agencies the option of extending the 10-day deadline in which to respond to a particular request by an additional 14 days in “unusual circumstances.”  Gov’t Code § 6253(c).  This provision provides that “unusual circumstances” means the following, but only to the extent reasonably necessary to the proper processing of the particular request:

  • (1) The need to search for and collect the requested records from field facilities or other establishments that are separate from the office processing the request.
  • (2) The need to search for, collect, and appropriately examine a voluminous amount of separate and distinct records that are demanded in a single request.
  • (3) The need for consultation, which shall be conducted with all practicable speed, with another agency having substantial interest in the determination of the request or among two or more components of the agency having substantial subject matter interest therein.
  • (4) The need to compile data, to write programming language or a computer program, or to construct a computer report to extract data.”

Gov’t Code § 6253(c).

The statute goes on to provide that “[n]othing in this chapter shall be construed to permit an agency to delay or obstruct the inspection or copying of public records.”  Gov’t Code § 6253(d).

You may want to write back to the state agency reminding it of the deadlines set forth in the CPRA, and to ask for a justification for the long extension.

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.