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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: Can a School Board Restrict Recording of a Meeting to a Designated Area?

Q: Can a school board allow the public to record the meeting only from a certain designated area in the back of the room? Or can a person record from their seat outside the designated area if they are not disrupting the meeting at any time? A: Cal. Gov. Code § 54953.5 provides: “Any person attending an open and public meeting of a legislative body of a local agency shall have the right to record the proceedings with an audio or video recorder or a still or motion picture camera in the absence of a reasonable finding by the legislative

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A&A: Despite New Laws, My Request for Police Body Camera Footage Has Been Repeatedly Denied

Q: In light of SB 1421 and AB 748, I submitted a request to the city and the police department for the body camera footage and internal affairs investigation report of an incident that happened at my home involving the discharge of a firearm at a person (me) by a peace officer and the use of extreme excessive force. My requests were denied by both the city and the police department. I have been told by the police department that the body camera footage I requested doesn’t exist, altough by law they are required to retain the footage for a minimum of

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A&A: How can I Access Information On a Parolee in California

Q: I’m trying to find out how to access a record from the parole office to determine the date a certain parolee absconded. Can you help? Is there a sample letter for making a request? A: While I did not locate any law directly addressing the California Public Records Act and specific details within parole records (such as date of absconsion), the presumption is that records held by government agencies are subject to disclosure under the PRA unless some exemption applies. For information regarding arrestees, Police are required to release “[t]he full name and occupation of every individual arrested by the agency,

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A&A: Sheriff Denied My Request For Data From Automated License Plate Readers

Q: My local sheriff recently denied my request for information related to Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs). I would appreciate any advice you might have about a remedy. A: As you know, the California Public Records Act (CPRA) sets forth the rules and procedures governing information disclosures made by public agencies, including sheriff’s departments. Public records are open to inspection by members of the public unless they are exempt from disclosure by express exemptions codified in the Act. Cal. Gov. Code § 6253. The CPRA contains a broad exemption for police investigatory records. Specifically, Cal. Gov. Code § 6254(f) exempts

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A&A: COVID-19 Prohibition On Public Gatherings Prevented Me From Speaking to the Public

Q: I’m a federal whistleblower who’s been shut out of a local board of supervisors public meeting due to the COVID-19 pandemic and new laws disallowing public gatherings. Therefore I was denied the chance to go on the record to the public about county officials polluting millions of gallons of stormwater. How can I redress this wrong? A: As a general matter, the public must be permitted to attend any meeting governed by the Brown Act. Cal. Gov. Code § 54953(a). However, in March, Governor Newsom issued executive orders N-25-20 and N-29-20, which temporarily suspended any Brown Act requirements “expressly or impliedly requiring the physical presence of

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A&A: Does City Council’s Rule Against Holding Up Signs At Meetings Violate the First Amendment?

Q: City council meeting attendees have been told they can’t hold up signs. The mayor told people not to talk or to take their conversations outside. If residents in the audience even whisper to one another, a police officer walks over and tells them to stop talking or leave. Recently a resident wrote to the city attorney that this violated the First Amendment rights.  The city attorney sent him a copy of the Municipal Code saying disrupting a council meeting is a misdemeanor and he would enforce it.  Before the public comment portion of the meeting, the mayor reads an

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