Appellate court to hear dispute over charging for public records

In 2014, the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) made a request for body-camera footage from the City of Hayward. The city charged the NLG over $3,000 for the footage the NLG sought.

NLG paid under protest and sued the city for violating the California Public Records Act, arguing that the law does not allow agencies to charge for the time it takes to review and redact information from public records.

The trial court agreed with NLG and found that the charges were not permitted by the CPRA. The City of Hayward, however, has appealed, advancing a position that agencies across the state are increasingly taking- that electronic records are different and agencies can charge to locate, review and redact them. This interpretation is contrary to existing law.

The city’s position relies on a provision amended into the CPRA in 2000 that allows an agency to recover costs for computer extraction and programming. CNPA was involved in the negotiations of this provision, and the intent was to allow an agency to recover costs associated with having to create a record it did not keep for itself or if it has to create a new program.

The city’s position is contrary to the intent of the legislation, and if ratified by the court, would seriously undermine the public’s ability to access records without paying high fees that operate to bar access.

The case is currently being briefed in the appellate court. CNPA has been asked to support the effort to uphold the trial court decision by joining a brief drafted by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.