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Asked & Answered

A&A is a searchable database of questions posed by users like you about their rights under open government laws and First Amendment safeguards that have been answered by FAC’s attorneys—all First Amendment and government access specialists at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, LLP, an international law firm with offices in San Francisco.

A&A: Multiple CPRA Requests For A Decades Old Homicide Have Been Denied Without Explanation

Q: I am seeking information from the California Department of Justice regarding a 1981 multiple homicide. I have reason to believe the two suspects in the homicides were not arrested because one of the suspects was a confidential informant at the time. I have asked for clarification or other information on the matter but have turned down several times in the past. A: The law enforcement exception to the California Public Records Act allows an agency to refuse to disclose the identity of a person who has furnished information in confidence to a law enforcement officer.  Gov. Code §6254(f).  The same provision

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A&A: Newspaper Facing Possible Retaliation Over Reporting On Local Scandal Involving City Hall

Q: We are a small news organization covering a scandal and cover-up regarding finances and fraudulent email involving the city. There exists a pattern and culture of City Hall utilizing punitive powers to bully and pressure residents and business owners in town. Due to the recordings that we are publishing in our local paper, certain members of City Hall and the City Council have been intimidating some residents and businesses. They are afraid to make public comments or step forward for fear of retaliation from the city. Our small news organization is now fearful about retaliation for reporting the news

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A&A: Are Construction Permits Accessible Under the CPRA?

Q: We are doing an investigation about a non-profit organization in California. We tried to request construction permit information from the county where the organization’s building is located. The county denied our request for this information, claiming that this is not available to the public. Is it legal to deny this kind of information? Please help us to understand how to obtain such information for our investigation. A: It is not clear from your inquiry what entity you sought the records from, but if it is a state or local agency, you should be able to access its records by

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A&A: Request For Public Employee W2 Forms Fulfilled, But Heavily Redacted. Are The Redactions Legal?

Q: I submitted a CPRA request for W2’s for a group of public school employees. When I received the W2 forms, I expected the individual’s Social Security Number and address to be redacted, but the school also redacted the information for the federal income tax withheld, social security tax withheld, medicare tax withheld, “other” withholdings/contributions (Box 14 items which include employer pension/STRS contributions on behalf of the employee), and state income tax withheld. When I asked to have these redactions removed, the school’s legal counsel responded with a letter that stated that would be an unwarranted invasion of privacy and

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A&A: Can I Sue Facebook For Censoring Me?

Q: Facebook censored my comments then blocked me for 30 days. I want to take them to court A: In general, First Amendment claims can only be brought when the government attempts to suppress the speech of its citizens — i.e. when there is “state action” that suppresses free speech. As such, it is unlikely that you would have any claim against Facebook for infringement of your First Amendment right to free speech. The Supreme Court recently recognized that online forums are now an “important place” for the “exchange of views” in Packingham v. North Carolina, 137 S.Ct. 1730 (2017), but

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A&A: I’ve Filed A Brown Act Violation Cure or Correct Letter. What Is My Next Step If They Fail to Comply?

Q: I have served a Brown Act Violation Cure or Correct/Cease and Desist Letter to a local city agency in California. I was wondering which would be the best next step if they do not comply. File a lawsuit? Contact the DA? I quoted an opinion from the CA Attorney General in the document which supports my position. I can’t afford to pay an attorney. Do you have any ideas? A: If the city agency is noncompliant with the Brown Act, and you sent the appropriate letter within the time limits provided in the Brown Act (see below) to notify

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