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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 a Member of a Public Body Have a First Amendment Claim if He or She is Punished for Speaking Out?

Q: I serve as a director on a public body–a Board of Directors. A majority of that Board recently voted to punish me because I have publicly expressed, as an individual citizen, views contrary to the majority. They said that once the Board has decided something, I should be silent if I disagreed. Was this unlawful, and do I have any recourse? A: It is not clear from your inquiry whether you as a Director are a public employee or an elected official. Nevertheless, we can provide you with some general information as to how the First Amendment may apply

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A&A: How Can I Access Records From The California Department of Corrections Regarding High-Profile Offenders?

Q:  I need to obtain information from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) regarding several high-profile offenders, some of whom are deceased, for a project I am doing on several high-profile murder cases. All of the offenders are or were on Death Row at one point in time and several are deceased. What information can I obtain? A: The records you’re looking for from CDCR are likely available through the use of the California Public Records Act (“CPRA”).  Under the CPRA, public records — which include “any writing containing information relating to the conduct of the public’s business prepared,

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A&A: Local School Board President Banning Parents From Commenting On School’s Official Facebook Page

Q: A group of parents is being blocked by a local school board president from commenting on the Facebook page where he frequently discusses local school board issues. It is my understanding President Trump, Congressperson Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, elected officials in County Board of Supervisors seats and others have had courts rule against them for blocking citizens and they have been forced to reverse the action on various social media platforms because they were violating the citizens’ First Amendment right to comment on actions taken by government officials. Could you please let us know if we have recourse for this

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What Records Or Documents Are Public In A City Purchase Of Private Property?

Q: What records are public when a city purchases private property? Can the public receive the preliminary title report? Or the Escrow Settlement Statement? A: Under the California Public Records Act (“CPRA”), public records — which include “any writing containing information relating to the conduct of the public’s business prepared, owned, used, or retained by any state or local agency regardless of physical form or characteristics,” Cal. Gov. Code § 6252(e) — are presumed to be open to the public and must be disclosed unless a specific provision of the Act or other law exempts them from disclosure. The CPRA

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A&A: Are There National Security Exemptions Under CPRA?

Q: I am a policy advocate working on a bill that would strengthen the California Public Records Act as it relates to government contracts and tax incentive programs. Recently, we have heard that there are concerns around national security when it comes to this bill. Thus, my question is–are there any existing national security protections built into the CPRA? A: The California Public Records Act (CPRA) contains numerous exemptions to its disclosure provisions. The most relevant to your inquiry is the police investigatory records exemption, which broadly exempts “[r]ecords of complaints to, or investigations conducted by, or records of intelligence

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A&A: Can California Agencies Continue to Hold Meetings Remotely After the State Reopens?

Q: I asked a water agency in California if it planned to continue holding meetings online after the state reopens this month, and it said that would not be legal under the Brown Act. Is that true?  A: The agency’s response that making public participation in agency meetings available online and through Zoom is “currently not legal under the Brown Act” is incorrect.   The agency does acknowledge that online meetings would not comply with the Brown Act “but for the emergency order,” presumably referring to Executive Order N-29-20, attached.  The order states, in relevant part, that all requirements in the

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