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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 An Agency Extend Response to a CPRA Request Up to Eight Weeks Due to Covid?

Q: I received a response to a CPRA request notifying me that I would likely not receive a response for eight weeks. Is this extended window consistent with the PRA? If it is not, what remedies are available to me? [This questions was submitted in 2021 amid the coronavirus pandemic.) A: Although the agency has a right to a 14-day extension of the usual 10-day response period for a California Public Records Act (“CPRA”) request, we do not think the estimated eight-week deadline complies with the CPRA.  See Cal. Gov’t Code § 6253(c) (“Each agency, upon a request for a copy of

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A&A: What Are My Rights as a Journalist Arrested And Detained Without Cause?

Q: I am a journalist whose First and Fourth Amendment Rights were violated by police. The incident occurred while I was documenting but not speaking or interacting with anyone on the public sidewalk. The police department report has my location and description, and stated no crime suspected, just my presence and that I am photographing the police. A police officer walked behind me and without cause or warning reached around and stuck his hand inside my sweatshirt pocket causing me to flinch and turn. I stated I do not consent and the officer said “I don’t care.” He pushed me

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A&A: I Believe My University Has Infringed on My Right to Free Speech. How Can I Fight Back?

Q: I am a Ph.D. student at a state university. For the past several months I have been a part of a political movement demanding a cost of living adjustment for graduate students. As part of this student action, there have been pickets often consisting of several hundred people daily. I have been fired as a result of my participation in this strike. I am requesting assistance regarding a recent development that may infringe on my right to free speech. Yesterday I received a summons from the university notifying me of an interim suspension which will result in my arrest

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A&A: County Refusing to Share Mold Report they Say Requires Us to Vacate. How Can We Access that Report?

Q:  I am on the board of a nonprofit preschool in a county-owned building and we have just learned that our lease expired nearly two decades ago. This is an old building, but we have been declared safe by the company we hired to do our mold report. The county is refusing to show us their mold report, claiming attorney-client privilege. The county is trying to get us to vacate the building to do remediation of mold for an undetermined amount of time, but will not share with us any information proving unsafe conditions exist. I was advised to file

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A&A: Can We Publish Discovery & Depositions From a 1994 California Case?

Q: We operate a news publication. We have obtained discovery and depositions from the 1990s for a California civil case. There were no court orders sealing the discovery or depositions. Can we use that material for a story? A: Although we cannot provide you with specific legal advice, generally speaking, the publication of truthful information regarding a matter of public concern is rarely legally actionable. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that state officials may not constitutionally punish publication of truthful information that a newspaper lawfully obtains about a matter of public significance. Smith v. Daily Mail Pub. Co., 443 U.S. 97, 103 (1979). Occasionally, some court

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A&A: Balancing Police Officers’ Privacy Rights with Public Access — Who Decides?

Q: Who is responsible for balancing the police officers’ right to a confidential personnel file, the police agencies obligation to keep personnel actions and records confidential, and the public’s right to transparency? A: When a member of the press or public asks for records contained in an officer’s personnel file, the agency employing the officer must respond by disclosing the requested records or explaining why it believes they are exempt from disclosure in whole or in part. If a requester disagrees with the agency’s position, the requester may file a lawsuit against the agency under the California Public Records Act,

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