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California Public Records Act
National Lawyers Guild v. City of Hayward Case No. S252445 – California Supreme Court New
Member(s) Involved: On behalf of all California school districts and county offices of education
Current status and/or outcome:
On June 16, 2020, the California Supreme Court overturned the appellate court’s decision and ruled in favor of the National Lawyers Guild, holding that an agency may not pass on to the requester the cost of redacting exempt information from electronic records requested under the California Public Records Act (CPRA). The Court identified some situations where costs may be recovered for data extraction but found the costs associated with searching for responsive documents or redacting exempt information from electronic records were not recoverable.
Importance of statewide issue:
Funding of school districts, county offices of education, and other public agencies, which by law are required to maintain extensive personal information of members of the public, can be significantly impacted if they have to bear the cost of redacting exempt information from records requested pursuant to CPRA.
Summary of the case:
In this case, the National Lawyers Guild requested various public records from the City of Hayward, including hours of police body camera video. The City provided responsive documents and video and sought reimbursement for the costs incurred to acquire and employ a special computer software program to redact portions of video recordings that were exempt from disclosure. The case was essentially a dispute over what costs are recoverable by a public agency under Government Code section 6253.9(b)(2), which states that a CPRA requester bears the cost of producing a copy of the record, including the cost to construct a record and, when the request would require data compilation, extraction, or programming to produce the record, the cost of programming and computer services necessary to produce a copy of the record. The Guild argued the City could only recover the direct cost of duplicating the records, while the City argued that it should be able to recover the cost of taking exempt material out of the digital video file in order to allow a record to be produced.

The Court of Appeal overturned the trial court and ruled in favor of the City finding that, based on the language of the statute, the legislative history, and policy considerations, the costs allowable under section 6253.9(b)(2) include the City’s actual expenditures to produce a copy of the police body camera video recordings, including the cost of extracting exempt material from these video records with the aid of special computer programming.

The ELA filed an amicus brief before the Supreme Court in support of the Court of Appeal’s ruling on May 31, 2019, focusing on the burden school districts can face under CPRA requests.