Amended bill to protect requesters from being sued by agencies gets unanimous support

On a 7-0 vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed SB 1244 by Senator Bob Wieckowski to the Senate Floor on Tuesday.

The bill, which has two components, was substantially amended in the hearing to remove the first section which would prohibit an agency from suing a requester who receives inadvertently disclosed records. The judiciary committee insisted on the removal of the provision, arguing that privacy concerns made it difficult to justify a complete bar on agencies from suing. For example, if a state agency released an individual’s personal medical information, the committee argued that it should be incumbent upon the state to fix this mistake, filing a lawsuit for the return of records if necessary.

As a result of the amendments, the League of California Cities and other agency associations removed their opposition.

The Honorable Quentin Kopp, a former judge and Senator who currently serves on the board of the First Amendment Coalition, testified in support of the remaining change proposed by SB 1244, to clarify that if an agency sues a requester for the return of inadvertently disclosed documents it cannot recover its attorneys fees and costs from the requester who received the documents.

Kopp took the opportunity to criticize the committee for eliminating the first provision of the bill that would limit agency initiated lawsuits. Kopp suggested that the parties work together to craft a narrower approach as the bill continues through the process.

The bill is now on the Senate Floor.