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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: My High School Took Down My Online Profile Picture. Does this Violate My First Amendment Rights?

Q: I am currently a high school student and I am also a minor. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, our school is online and we are using a website called Office 365 and Teams, which is provided by the school. I have changed my profile picture on those websites to an LGBT flag being burned. A student complained about my profile picture and a teacher told me to take it down and I respectfully told her I was not going to take it down because that would be in violation of my First Amendment rights. She notified administration and administration

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A&A: Do I Have a Right to Remain Anonymous During Public Meetings Held on Zoom During the Pandemic?

Q: I’ve attended some meetings of a local government in California recently and they’ve started using Zoom to conduct the meetings because of the local COVID-19 public health orders. I’ve set up my Zoom sign-on to identify me as “John Q. Public,” which as you can probably guess isn’t my real name. But they do know who I am. However, at the beginning of the Zoom meetings the district secretary has gotten into the habit of stating a list of all the attendees and she frequently identifies me by my real full name — not as John Q. Public —

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A&A: Can the School District Refuse to Disclose Legal Fees Because of Attorney-Client Privilege?

Q: A school district in California is refusing to disclose the amounts paid to outside legal counsel to defend itself in a federal lawsuit filed by a school board member. District officials are citing the appellate decision in LA County Board of Supervisors v. Superior Court as supporting case law. Have you encountered this defense? Is it legitimate? A: Attorney-client privilege is an exemption to the California Public Records Act (the “CPRA”), and it is often asserted when a request is made for legal bills paid by a governmental agency to a private law firm.  Most agencies that receive requests

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A&A: County Ignores My Requests For Public Records

Q: I have had a long-running battle with the county’s Community Development Agency on them altering Tax Assessor real estate records in order to approve an out-of-proportion large new house construction. CDA rules dictate new houses have to be average to the neighborhood. What CDA did was inflate the neighborhood average size, the part that is taxed, to make their project appear average. It took my California Public Records Act requests to expose some of their doing, but they are now refusing to provide any more. I have submitted requests to the County Administrator and Board of Supervisors. The county

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A&A: How can I access to the Zodiac Killer police files since law enforcement agencies are stonewalling?

Q: I have been conducting academic research in the “Zodiac Killer” case from the late 1960s and early 1970s. As part of my research, I have made several requests for police files and records from that time in relation to that case. However, I have found the local law enforcement to be uncooperative and often uncommunicative. In a number of my public records requests, they have used legal semantics and a vague interpretation of the California Public Records Act to stonewall my attempts at finding information. At this point, I fear a retaliatory lawsuit if I continue to pursue these

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A&A: Can we submit a Public Records Act request for a California elected official’s personal emails, text messages?

Q: We believe that one of our city council members has been using her personal emails, text messages and Facebook to discuss city-related business and spread rumors, false information to local residents in order to sway public opinion and silence public record requests. It is our belief that she is specifically choosing to use her personal email when having these discussions in order to circumvent the ability to have these discussions of city business with a sitting city council member fall into the public domain. How do we successfully, if we can submit a PRA to access these emails and

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