California Supreme Court Stops Cities From Charging Steep Fees for Video Redactions

The California Supreme Court today issued an opinion preventing government agencies from charging the public for editing and compiling police body camera footage and other electronic records before the records are released.

The First Amendment Coalition and the California News Publishers Association filed an amicus brief in the case, National Lawyers Guild v. City of Hayward. We urged the court to find that agencies cannot require members of the public to pay for redaction costs regardless of the form in which a record is produced in response to a California Public Records Act request.

The case comes after Hayward, Calif., officials charged the National Lawyers Guild $2,938.58 to produce law enforcement body cam videos following a December 2014 march against police violence.

In a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court held that California open-records laws do not provide a basis for charging requesters for the costs of redacting government records kept in an electronic format, including digital video footage.

“This decision is great news for government transparency and accountability,” said FAC Executive Director David Snyder. “It will prevent government from erecting significant cost barriers to public access, thus ensuring the public gets the information they’re entitled to under California law.”

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