Individuals and businesses have a constitutional and statutory right to inspect and receive copies of the vast amount of public records stored by state agencies and local government departments.
Your Right to California Public Records
The rights are codified within the California Public Records Act, found within section 6250 et seq. of the California Government Code. It explicitly states that any individual, corporation partnership, limited liability company, firm or association, both inside and outside of California, can inspect these records and that copies must be produced upon request.
The act covers all agencies and all records. This means it includes the public records of California state offices, officers, departments, divisions, bureaus, boards and commissions, and other state bodies and agencies. You can also inspect the public records of local agencies, including counties, cities, schools districts, municipal corporations, districts, political subdivisions, local public agencies, and nonprofit entities that are legislative bodies of a local agency. And the term "public records" is broadly defined to include information relating to the conduct of the public's business that is prepared, owned, used, or retained by any state or local agency regardless of what medium it is stored in.
How to Request Public Records
The process for requesting the records varies from one agency or department or another. However, the statute provides specific rights that the responding governmental unit must abide by.
Nevertheless, most governmental units violate these rights constantly as they are ill-informed, ill-trained, and understaffed to handle the inquiries. As a result, many requests go unfulfilled, or requesting parties are threatened by significant (illegal) invoices for the prospective compiling of the requested information.
Here is a blog entry going over some tips on pursuing one's own PRA request.
An Experienced Attorney Can Help
It sometimes makes sense to retain counsel for compelling timely and complete production, and Simas & Associates, Ltd., has extensive experience submitting, retrieving, analyzing, and applying the results of Public Records Act requests. In retaining our firm, your rights will be protected and you will get the information you deserve to best adjudge your legal matter.