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California bill to save losing FOIA plaintiffs attorney's fees

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  1. Freedom of Information
A California bill that will relieve losing plaintiffs in Freedom of Information Act lawsuits of having to pay attorney's fees…

A California bill that will relieve losing plaintiffs in Freedom of Information Act lawsuits of having to pay attorney’s fees passed the state’s legislature last month. It is now awaiting a signature from the governor.

Under the proposed law, governments that prevail on an "anti-SLAPP" motion in FOIA cases will not be able to collect attorney’s fees for claims brought against them in good faith. Fees could only be awarded in limited situations, such as when the court decides the action is frivolous and without merit. The state anti-SLAPP law allows defendants to have frivolous suits dismissed early.

The act, introduced by Sen. Leland Yee, comes as an effort to curb the chilling effect that can accompany the assignment of  extensive fees to plaintiffs who unsuccessfully sue the government to enforce the California Public Records Act.

Open government groups such as Californians Aware and the California Newspaper Publishers Association sent a letter to the governor urging him to sign the bill.