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Bill in California targets frequent records requesters

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  1. Freedom of Information
A bill introduced in California’s legislature would allow state agencies to stop filling the open-records requests of people who have asked for…

A bill introduced in California’s legislature would allow state agencies to stop filling the open-records requests of people who have asked for records too many times.

The bill sets out a process for an agency to seek a court order allowing them to no longer process records requests when the requester has an “improper purpose, which includes, but is not limited to, the harassment of a public agency or its employees.”

The tactic is becoming more common. Recently, Washington passed a law that targets jail or prison inmates who frequently request records. Similarly, Tennessee directed its new Advisory Committee on Open Government to come up with a policy addressing frequent and multiple requesters under the state’s open records law.

Missouri and Maine also saw similar legislative proposals in 2005 that were eventually dropped.

Prior to a Tuesday hearing on the California bill, the California Newspaper Publishers Association sent a letter to the legislature protesting the proposed measure.

“CNPA argues in its letter that while their may be instances of abusive requests and harassing behavior, the problem is not worthy of legislative resolution.,” the group’s Web site said. “In fact, public agencies at every level of government have failed to comply with the law by ignoring requests for records, delaying access, wrongfully denying requests and charging fees in excess of those authorized by law. Every audit performed by Californians Aware, the California First Amendment Coalition, or CNPA member newspapers such as the Contra Costa Times or Stockton Record, has shown abysmal compliance with the law.”