Q: I made a PRA request to the School District for gender breakdowns on student performance. After nine business days, I receive an email reply from a law firm seeking “clarification” on about fifty percent of the items. The clarifications requested are not necessary; they are stalling. And they do claim to have approximately half of the items but they did not provide such. The lawyer also claims that due to “reduced staff” they cannot provide me with a time estimate when the documents will be ready.
A: When an agency receives a request for public records, it has ten days (and fourteen extra in statutorily-defined “unusual circumstances”) to determine whether the request seeks copies of disclosable records, and to either disclose them or cite an applicable exemption and its reasoning why that exemption applies. Cal. Gov. Code § 6253(c). When an agency determines records are disclosable, it is required to provide an estimated date and time when the records will be made available. § 6253(c). Further, § 6253(d) provides “Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to permit an agency to delay or obstruct the inspection or copying of public records.” § 6253(b).
Although the CPRA provides deadlines for agencies to make their initial determination, the law only requires that the records themselves be made “promptly” available at some point after that determination is made. What constitutes a “prompt” response is not defined in the CPRA, but reviewing courts have questioned whether a delay of only one month is reasonable. Marken v. Santa Monica-Malibu Unified Sch. Dist., 202 Cal. App. 4th 1250, 1268 n.14 (2012).
While it is no doubt frustrating that the school district is taking its time in responding to your CPRA request, it is, unfortunately, not uncommon for government agencies to miss the CPRA’s deadlines. In this situation, you may wish to write back to the law firm and remind it of the statutorily-set deadlines for the school district’s response.DS
More information about the CPRA, including your options for enforcement, can be found 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.