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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: 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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A&A: How Can We Obtain Criminal Charges Against Our Community Service District for Violations of the Brown Act?

Q: We are requesting assistance in criminally prosecuting Community Service District (CSD) members and General Manager for multiple past and ongoing violations of the Brown Act. A: Unfortunately, we cannot provide individual representation through this hotline, nor can we provide specific legal advice. If you are looking for an attorney to represent you, a good place to look would be the County Bar Association’s lawyer referral service. We can, however, provide you with general legal advice about the Brown Act and how it is enforced. At the outset, the Brown Act does not provide for criminal penalties, except for Cal.

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A&A: I Called Police About My Loud Neighbors Gathering During COVID. Were These Redactions Lawful?

Q: This concerns a California Public Records Act request I recently made to a Police Department, and the response I got back improperly withholding some information from one of the responsive and disclosable Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) Call Reports. Recently, one of the neighbors was having a very loud late-night party and illegal gathering (vis-à-vis the COVID-19 shelter-in-place order). I called the police and reported the incident. Then, some days later, as the victim of the incident (I live in the neighborhood and was being disturbed by the illegal noise), I emailed a CPRA request asking for a copy of

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A&A: How Do I Access Records Pertaining to a Complaint I Filed In New Mexico?

Q: I was just trying to find out if I have any rights to see my own personal file in New Mexico that contains a complaint I filed with the state medical board against a doctor. They have twice refused me access to my file. Both times confidentiality is the stated reason for denying me access. My own file is too confidential for me to see? A: We are more familiar with California’s public records laws, but we note that New Mexico has an Inspection of Public Records Act, set forth at NMSA 1978 § 14-2 et seq. The IPRA provides

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A&A: Is there a Posting Date Requirement for Minutes of Public Agency Meetings?

Q: Is there a legal requirement that a Community College in California post Minutes for their Board, Special and Committee Meetings within a certain timeframe? They are not doing so by the next meeting and sometimes do not do so for many many months or at all. This is an ongoing issue. A: The Ralph M. Brown Act, which governs local legislative bodies, including community college districts, requires, among other things, that local legislative bodies conduct their meetings at noticed, agendized, and open public meetings. See Cal. Gov. Code § 54950 et seq. The Act also requires legislative bodies to report any “action

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A&A: Can A Trustee Mute Another Trustee’s Microphone During A Meeting Streaming On Zoom?

Q: Is it legal for a school board trustee facilitating a meeting streaming on Zoom to mute another trustee’s microphone because he objects to the content of what the trustee is saying? A: The Ralph M. Brown Open Meetings Act (in which we specialize at this hotline) primarily imposes procedural requirements on legislative bodies to ensure that the public’s business is transacted at noticed and open public meetings, where citizens can exercise their rights to, among other things, observe the meeting, record its proceedings, and address members of the body. See Cal. Gov. Code § 54950 et seq. As such, the Brown Act

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