To promote transparency, accountability, and public access to government records, the California Public Records Act (CPRA) was enacted.
Despite the positive intentions, submitting a public records request can still be complicated, costly, and time consuming for members of the public.
While citizens can file a public records request successfully on their own, having a legal advocate can help you in several ways.
An experienced attorney:
- Is familiar with the government agencies and how to best make contact
- Knows how to clearly and concisely request what records you need
- Will follow-up and hold agencies accountable
- Will save you the time and stress of correspondence that can last months
In the face of these complexities, clients can trust that our attorneys at Hamlin | Cody will streamline the process and get you the records you need for your legal matters.
The following steps are required in order to make a public records request:
1. Find out what agency has the records you need.
Finding the right agency with the right records is something an attorney will investigate for you. It may be necessary to send requests to more than one agency if you don’t know which one was involved. Your attorney will find the right email address, fax number, mailing address, or other way to send the request to the appropriate person.
2. Be clear and concise.
To have the best chance of getting the records you need in a timely manner, the original request should be clear and concise. The type, title, and date of the document should be included if known. You can seek a lot of public records, but an unclear or disorganization request will take longer to actually get the records you need, if you get them at all. A seasoned lawyer will investigate exactly what is needed to keep the request thorough yet uncomplicated.
3. Follow-up, and follow-up again.
State agencies and many local government agencies are legally obligated to respond to your request within 10 days. If they fail to respond within the time limit, this is when things can get tedious. You must write them another email or call them (making note of when you contacted them and who you spoke with). It is important to remain polite but firm. In most cases, a response will be forthcoming. If not, routine follow-up is a good idea. When you still cannot get a response, an attorney can be helpful to ascertain what to do next.
Getting to the end of the matter…
As you can see, submitting and monitoring a public records request can be frustrating and time consuming. All these steps and the shuffles in between them can be done, but at what cost? It could take months of time and mental energy trying to figure out what you need, who to get it from, and how to make them listen.
Contact Our California Attorneys
At Hamlin | Cody we are experienced in filing public records requests in accordance with CPRA. We take the pressure off our clients by handling these requests for them so they can focus on other business and personal matters. To learn more, please hit reply to schedule a Get Acquainted Call or Initial Case Evaluation.