Statutory Citation: Gov’t Code §6250-6268

Definition of Public Record

Public records in the California Public Records Act are defined as “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.” There is a separate category of “purely personal information” that, although it may be in the custody of a government agency, does not fall under the act. Statute 6255 states a catch all exemption, “The agency shall justify withholding any record by demonstrating that the record in question is exempt under express provisions of this chapter or that on the facts of the particular case the public interest served by not disclosing the record clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure of the record.” 1

Exemptions to Public Records

Exempt: Law enforcement investigations: litigation; and proprietary business data and personal privacy. 2

Who Can Make The Request?


Response Timeframe

One should allow 10 days for an agency to comply with a records request. 3

Information on Fees

Fees may cover “direct costs of duplication or a statutory fee if applicable” 4

Enforcement Mechanisms

“Any person may institute proceedings for injunctive or declarative relief or writ of mandate in any court of competent jurisdiction to enforce his or her right to inspect or to receive a copy of any public record or class of public records under this chapter. The times for responsive pleadings and for hearings in these proceedings shall be set by the judge of the court with the object of securing a decision as to these matters at the earliest possible time.” Cal. Gov’t Code § 6258 5

Attorney Fees

“The court shall award court costs and reasonable attorney fees to the plaintiff should the plaintiff prevail in litigation filed pursuant to this section. The costs and fees shall be paid by the public agency of which the public official is a member or employee and shall not become a personal liability of the public official. If the court finds that the plaintiff’s case is clearly frivolous, it shall award court costs and reasonable attorney fees to the public agency.” [Cal. Gov’t Code § 6259(d)

Do You Want to Make a Public Records Request?

The public records process begins with a public records request. Our guide outlines best practices for drafting well-defined requests for public information.

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Questions? Contact the Goldwater Institute.

If you have any questions regarding this guide or your rights to public information, please contact the Goldwater Institute at to determine if the Institute can help you access information necessary to hold your government accountable.

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