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SB-657 California Public Records Act: reverse public records actions.(2017-2018)

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Date Published: 02/17/2017 09:00 PM
SB657:v99#DOCUMENT


CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2017–2018 REGULAR SESSION

Senate Bill No. 657


Introduced by Senator Bates
(Principal coauthor: Assembly Member Brough)

February 17, 2017


An act to add Section 6259.5 to the Government Code, relating to public records.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


SB 657, as introduced, Bates. California Public Records Act: reverse public records actions.
The California Public Records Act requires state and local agencies to make public records available for inspection, subject to certain exceptions. Under existing law, a person may seek injunctive or declaratory relief or a writ of mandate to enforce his or her right to inspect or receive a copy of a public record, as specified. Under existing case law, an agency’s decision to release a public record pursuant to the California Public Records Act is reviewable by a petition for a writ of mandate on the basis that the public record was confidential, which is known as a reverse public records action.
This bill would require a court in a reverse public records action to apply the provisions of the California Public Records Act as if the action had been initiated by a person requesting disclosure of a public record. This bill would require the requestor, as defined, to be named as a real party of interest in a reverse public records action, and would require a court to allow the requestor, at his or her request, to be heard on the merits of the reverse public records action. This bill would require the person who initiated the reverse public records action to serve a requestor with a copy of the pleadings, and would prohibit a court from awarding any relief in that action until that person provides proof of service to the court. This bill would require the person who initiated the action to label the action as a reverse public records action on the first page of the pleadings.
This bill would provide that, if a court orders the public agency to disclose the records in a reverse public records action, the court shall order the person who initiated the action to pay the court costs and reasonable attorney’s fees of the requestor. Alternatively, this bill would authorize a court, if the court makes a finding that the public agency delayed disclosure to facilitate the filing of the action, to require the public agency to pay court costs and reasonable attorney’s fees of the requestor. This bill would also prohibit a court from requiring the requestor to pay court costs and attorney’s fees to the person who initiated the reverse public records action or to the public agency if the court orders the public agency to not disclose the record, and would require a court to, within 10 days of the hearing in which the court decided that the records shall not be disclosed, issue a statement of opinion explaining the factual and legal basis for its decision.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: NO  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 Section 6259.5 is added to the Government Code, to read:

6259.5.
 (a) In a reverse public records action, the following requirements apply:
(1) The court shall apply the provisions of this chapter as if the action had been initiated by a person requesting disclosure of a public record.
(2) The requestor shall be named as a real party of interest in the proceeding, and the person who initiated the reverse public records action shall serve a copy of any pleading on the requestor. If the person who initiated the action does not provide the court with proof of service upon the requestor, the court shall not award any relief in that action until the person who initiated the action provides proof of service to the court.
(3) If the requestor wishes, the court shall allow the requestor to be heard on the merits of the reverse public records action.
(4) A person who files a reverse public records action shall label the action as such on the first page of the pleadings.
(b) (1) In a reverse public records action, if the court orders the public agency to disclose the record that is at issue the court shall order the person who initiated the reverse public records action to pay court costs and reasonable attorney fees to the requestor. If the court finds that the public agency had delayed disclosure to facilitate the filing of the reverse public records action, the court may order the public entity to pay court costs and reasonable attorney fees to the requestor.
(2) In a reverse public records action, if the court orders the public agency to not disclose the record that is at issue the court shall not order the requestor to pay court costs and reasonable attorney fee’s to the third party who filed the reverse public records action or to the public agency. In that instance, the court shall, within 10 days of the hearing in which the court made that decision, issue a statement of opinion, pursuant to Section 632 of the Code of Civil Procedure, explaining the factual and legal basis for its decision that the public agency shall not disclose the record pursuant to this chapter.
(c) For purposes of this section, the following terms have the following meanings:
(1) “Requestor” means the person who originally requested the record that is the subject of the reverse public records action.
(2) “Reverse public records action” means a petition for declaratory or injunctive relief filed by a third party that requests a court to enjoin a decision by a public agency to disclose a public record in response to a request by a requestor.