California Public Records Act
The California Public Records Act (PRA) was adopted to foster transparency, accountability, and greater public access to government records. The consequences for noncompliance can be expensive litigation and the requester’s attorneys’ fees. While these are all worthy goals, complying with records requests can be complicated, costly and time-consuming. This is especially true with increasing amounts of data being stored, accessed, and shared on both public and private devices. Public agencies must wade through large amounts of data to determine what needs to be disclosed and what is exempt under the PRA, all while respecting privacy rights and responding within a reasonable time to records requests. The consequences for not doing this right can be expensive litigation and the requester’s attorneys' fees.
Faced with these challenges, local public agencies, including cities, special districts, and school districts, rely on Best Best & Krieger LLP (BBK) for clear and accurate guidance. With the largest full-service public agency practice in California and a reputation as a leader in the field, BBK regularly provides hundreds of state public agencies with timely, strategic advice on all aspects of the PRA.
Advanced Records Center (ARC)
BBK is also pleased to offer ARC — a full-service, scalable, and responsive resource utilizing experienced legal personnel and leading-edge technology to supplement in-house resources for greater consistency, efficiency, and lower litigation liability (or risk). ARC provides comprehensive legal services with cost-effective support for records-related matters, including PRA request processing, as well as policy drafting and training.
Further, with the emergence of new technologies, we use ARC’s certified e-Discovery specialists to regularly advise clients regarding the use of public and private electronic devices, and the public’s right to access information, including electronic communications.
Always at the forefront on emerging issues, our attorneys and paralegals are leading authorities in public agency and PRA law. Members of our firm were instrumental in helping prepare the League of California Cities’ Guide to the California Public Records Act. We speak and write extensively on legislative changes and legal developments impacting how the PRA is interpreted and applied, and always keep our clients informed. For example, BBK was one of the first law firms to advise clients on the significant impact of the California Supreme Court’s 2017 City of San Jose decision regarding the disclosure of records stored on personal electronic devices. Through decades of practice, we understand the challenges our public agency clients face and are well-prepared with strategies to help streamline the response process and avoid costly pitfalls.
Our services include:
- Helping clients efficiently locate, review and produce hard copy and electronic records while ensuring privacy rights are respected
- Evaluating what should be disclosed — and which documents and communications are exempt from disclosure
- Establishing best practices for agency staff members on PRA compliance, access and response protocols, and privacy protection
- Providing clear guidance and assistance in responding to and fulfilling records requests
- Drafting determination letters that document the agency's response efforts, build public trust, and shield the agency from costly litigation
- Keeping our clients current regarding pending legislation and cases, court decisions, and significant statutory and regulatory developments
- Providing customized training programs on best practices
- Representing clients’ processes before courts to defend their disclosure determinations and claims of exemption
- Consulting with city attorneys on PRA disclosure, litigation, and writs
- Guiding clients through the legal provisions affecting police, fire and public education records under the PRA and education statutes