Today’s ulcer comes courtesy of Attorney General Jerry Brown and Assemblywoman Wilmer Amina Carter, D-Rialto, who in February put forth AB 520, which would let a judge issue an order limiting the number and scope of requests a particular person can make under the California Public Records Act. “The bill would require the court, in issuing the order, to determine that the requestor has sought records under the act for an improper purpose, including, but not limited to, the harassment of a public agency or its employees,” according to the Legislative Counsel’s digest.
As someone who uses the CPRA often, I see problems with this “vexatious requestor” bill – agencies petitioning judges any time they feel they’re being picked on. Simply put, it’s none of a government agency’s business why someone wants public records – it’s not their place, nor a judge’s, to pick and choose between who will and won’t get records that should be available to anyone and everyone. Audits have shown many state agencies already fail to comply with CPRA, and this bill could give them yet another way of tying up requests.
The Assembly Judiciary Committee was to take up the bill at its hearing yesterday, but Carter pulled it “in order to work with the recent opposition that has come to light,” she said today. “The bill will require further research to develop, if possible, a measure that would address the significant consumption of public resources related to repetitive public records requests that appear to be abusive in nature. First and foremost, however, we must protect the State’s Open Records Act and the public’s right to oversee its government. Unless that can be assured, and opposition to the bill removed, the bill will not move forward.”