Public Records

What is the Public Records Act?

  • California's Public Records Act ("PRA") is a California statute that affords the public the right to inspect, and be provided a copy of, most of the written information retained by State and local agencies in the course of business. The PRA regulates the public's access to records and sets out the specific statutory circumstances under which particular records need not be disclosed. The PRA states that public records are open to inspection at all times during the office hours of a local agency.


Is the PRA related to the Freedom of Information Act?

  • Persons who request access to public records frequently reference the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") as the basis for their request. The FOIA is a federal statute that does not apply to local government. However, the PRA was modeled after the FOIA.


To which local agencies does the PRA apply?

  • The PRA applies to every conceivable local government entity. Under the PRA, a "local agency" includes a county; city, whether general law or chartered; city and county; school district; municipal corporation; district; political subdivision; any board, commission or agency of any of these and non-profit organizations of local agencies which are supported solely by public funds.


What are "Public Records?"

  • The PRA defines "public records" as follows: "'Public records' includes any writing containing information relating to the conduct of the public's business prepared, owned, used, or retained by any state or local agency regardless of physical form or characteristics ..." A local agency is not required to create a document or compile a list in response to a request under the PRA.


Procedure for complying with a Public Records Act Request:

  • The agency has 10 calendar days to determine whether to grant the request. In unusual circumstances, the agency may take up to an additional 14 calendar days to make the determination. If the agency intends to use this additional time to respond, the agency must provide written notification to the requestor that the additional time is required, the reason for the delay and the date on which a determination will be given. When the agency has made a determination, the requestor must be promptly notified of the agency's determination. This notification should be in writing.