After a school district sought to recover $500,000 from an individual exercising her constitutional right to access public records, Senator Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) introduced a bill to thwart future attempts by public agencies to harass and intimidate public records requesters.
The bill, SB 1244 makes a simple change, converting the word “plaintiff” to “requester” in the remedy provision of the CPRA. This accomplishes the goal of preventing a public agency that sues a requester, from being a “plaintiff,” entitled to use the CPRA’s fee shifting provision to recover attorney fees in CPRA litigation.
The bill was heard by the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
The committee analysis noted that “fees should only be awarded to a party who is seeking the transparency of public records as a ‘requester,’ in furtherance of the goals of the CPRA, and should never be awarded to a party who opposes the release of records, in contravention of the CPRA, regardless of which party happens technically to be the ‘plaintiff’ in the case.”
The committee amended the bill to ensure that the change in the law is interpreted to further the public’s right of access. The language states, “(e) Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit a requester’s right to obtain fees pursuant to this section or any other law.”
The bill passed out of the committee on the consent calendar with a 10-0 vote. The bill is on the Assembly floor and will be up for a vote when the legislature resumes after summer recess.