Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Legal Primer on Access to Public Information

Here's a bit of law to help you understand your rights to public information in the State of California. You can click on the name of each Act or Law to go directly to the full citation.

THE CALIFORNIA PUBLIC RECORDS ACT

Cal. Gov. Code Section 6250. In enacting this chapter, the Legislature, mindful of the right of individuals to privacy, finds and declares that access to information concerning the conduct of the people's business is a fundamental and necessary right of every person in this state.

THE RALPH M. BROWN ACT

Cal. Gov. Code Section 54950. In enacting this chapter, the Legislature finds and declares that the public commissions, boards and councils and the other public agencies in this State exist to aid in the conduct of the people's business. It is the intent of the law that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly. The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.



THE BAGLEY-KEENE OPEN MEETING ACT

Cal. Gov. Code Section 11120. It is the public policy of this state that public agencies exist to aid in the conduct of the people's business and the proceedings of public agencies be conducted openly so that the public may remain informed. In enacting this article the Legislature finds and declares that it is the intent of the law that actions of state agencies be taken openly and that their deliberation be conducted openly. The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.

In addition to the statutory California Government Codes cited, supra, access to public information is a constitutional right as set forth, infra.


CALIFORNIA CONSTITUTION

ARTICLE 1 DECLARATION OF RIGHTS

SEC. 3.

(a) The people have the right to instruct their representatives, petition government for redress of grievances, and assemble freely to consult for the common good.

(b) (1) The people have the right of access to information concerning the conduct of the people's business, and, therefore, the meetings of public bodies and the writings of public officials and agencies shall be open to public scrutiny.

(2) A statute, court rule, or other authority, including those in effect on the effective date of this subdivision, shall be broadly construed if it furthers the people's right of access, and narrowly construed if it limits the right of access. A statute, court rule, or other authority adopted after the effective date of this subdivision that limits the right of access shall be adopted with findings demonstrating the interest protected by the limitation and the need for protecting that interest.

(3) Nothing in this subdivision supersedes or modifies the right of privacy guaranteed by Section 1 or affects the construction of any statute, court rule, or other authority to the extent that it protects that right to privacy, including any statutory procedures governing discovery or disclosure of information concerning the official performance or professional qualifications of a peace officer.

Also, you can check out a vast wealth of information on this excellent site: CFAC: California First Amendment Coalition.

-- Des Manttari,
Editor-in-Chief,
Phoenix Genesis

(c) 2005: Phoenix Genesis/MBS LP

Feel free to link or print this; just include the SAVE SMC URL: http://savesmc.blogspot.com/

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