Tag Archives: CPRA 6258

Senator Ben Hueso Introduced SB615 Yesterday — Would Gut California Public Records Act By Requiring Proof That Noncompliant Agencies Knowingly And Willfully Withheld Records — This Would Make It Extremely Difficult For Requesters To Recover Fees — Which Would Make It Extremely Difficult For Requesters To Hire A Lawyer — Which Would Decimate The Already Lousy Compliance Level

Yesterday, February 22, 2019, Senator Ben Hueso introduced SB 615, a bill which would rewrite the California Public Records Act to make it radically more difficult for requesters to file and win petitions against noncompliant public agencies. As it stands, a petition filed in Superior Court is the only mechanism for enforcement of this essential law. Most people can’t afford lawyers, of course, but the CPRA at least tries to ameliorate this flaw by making it relatively easy for requesters to recover attorney’s fees from noncompliant agencies.

The law presently says that a requester wins a CPRA suit if the suit induces the agency to produce a record that was previously withheld. It’s not necessary to prove that the agency withheld the record on purpose. In fact, in Community Youth Athletic Center v. National City the California Court of Appeals specifically held that even incompetence or neglect were not valid excuses for not producing. Hueso’s bill would nullify this opinion and many others like it and require requesters to show that agencies “knowingly, willfully, and without substantial justification failed to respond to a request for records.”

In my extensive experience, agencies are already expert at denying access to records without ever saying that that’s what they’re doing. Instead they create an endless series of delays, errors, failures to respond quickly, and so on, which add up to a denial. I have had public agencies shine me on for years this way. And sadly judges are generally so deferential to public agencies that it’s already nearly impossible to prove that an agency involved in this kind of disingenuous delay is in violation. If it becomes necessary to prove that they’re doing it on purpose in order to recover fees there will be even fewer lawyers than there already are willing to take on these cases.

The bill would add a few other ways for a requester to prevail. Most of these are bad or neutral, but one is somewhat positive. That is the statement that petitioner wins by showing that “[t]he agency unreasonably delayed providing the contents of a record subject to disclosure in part or in whole.” Currently the CPRA says that agencies can’t delay access but it doesn’t explicitly create a cause of action for delay. Again, in my experience, judges’ deference makes attorneys reluctant to file such petitions. Maybe this would improve that situation.

That one potential improvement is not worth the destruction, though. If this bill passes into law look for already obstructionist agencies to ramp up their obstruction. Look for the already small number of lawyers willing to take CPRA cases on an affordable basis to decline sharply. Look for the already slow flow of records to decrease drastically.

Interestingly, the right of access to public records is written into the California Constitution at Article I Section 3, and in subpart (b)(2) it requires that “A statute, court rule, or other authority adopted after the effective date of this subdivision that limits the right of access shall be adopted with findings demonstrating the interest protected by the limitation and the need for protecting that interest.” Hueso’s bill contains some boilerplate language about this, but it doesn’t demonstrate anything, it just states it. The bill would clearly limit access, though, so maybe it would end up being unconstitutional.

And turn the page for a transcription of the legislative counsel’s summary and of the actual proposed changes. And then find your legislator and write in opposition to this crappy and dangerous bill.
Continue reading Senator Ben Hueso Introduced SB615 Yesterday — Would Gut California Public Records Act By Requiring Proof That Noncompliant Agencies Knowingly And Willfully Withheld Records — This Would Make It Extremely Difficult For Requesters To Recover Fees — Which Would Make It Extremely Difficult For Requesters To Hire A Lawyer — Which Would Decimate The Already Lousy Compliance Level

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Venice Beach BID Sued To Enforce Compliance With The Public Records Act

Yeah, perhaps you recall that in February 2017 I sent a public records act request to the newborn Venice Beach BID and executive directrix Tara Devine has been conscientiously ignoring it ever since. And so I hired a lawyer. And the lawyer filed this petition in Los Angeles County Superior Court. And served the petition on the BID yesterday.

Of course, this is the same course of action that the Larchmont Village BID recently thrust upon me. I wish there was some way to get these BIDdies to follow the law other than by filing petitions against them but the State Legislature, in its inscrutable wisdom, has made this the only remedy. Sad but true. Stay tuned for more information and turn the page for some excerpts from the petition.
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Larchmont Village BID Sued To Enforce Compliance With The California Public Records Act

It’s been two-ish years now since I sent my first CPRA request to the kooky little South Central Hollywood gang of white supremacist law-flouting gangster thugs known to the world as the Larchmont Village Business Improvement District.

That first time they ignored me and they ignored me and they ignored me until finally I had to hire a lawyer and pry the goodies out of their creepy grasping fingers by main force. But, as we know, the thug life is a powerful draw, and gangsters get hooked on lawbreaking like a drug. Despite being given every chance by society to reform their outlaw ways, these hardcore BIDdies sadly persisted in their chosen life of crime.

As you may recall, they’ve never managed to comply with the damn Brown Act, despite occasional signals that either they were going to start complying or maybe that the City of Los Angeles was going to force them to comply. And after that one time in 2016 they’ve never managed to comply with the CPRA again. I sent them a few requests in May 2017 which they ignored and ignored and ignored.

And so, as before, I hired a lawyer. And the lawyer filed this petition in Los Angeles County Superior Court. And served the petition on Tom Kneafsey earlier this week. And served a letter to Cap’n Tom along with the petition. I wish there was some way to get these BIDdies to follow the law other than by filing petitions against them but the State Legislature, in its inscrutable wisdom, has made this the only remedy. Sad but true. Stay tuned for more information and turn the page for some excerpts from the petition.
Continue reading Larchmont Village BID Sued To Enforce Compliance With The California Public Records Act

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