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Court Allows Suit Over Access to Public Records

(CN) - A California appeals court refused to overturn a ruling allowing a Saratoga couple to sue the state and Santa Clara County for allegedly wasting taxpayer money on policies that hinder access to public records.

Janice and Ronald Naymark sued the county, its sheriff and sheriff's department, and several cities, including San Jose, Campbell, Monte Sereno, Palo Alto and Santa Clara.

They accused the defendants of wasting taxpayer money on policies and practices that "do not comply with state law regarding access to public record," specifically the California Public Records Act, the Political Reform Act and specific government codes.

According to the complaint, the illegal practices include:

- "Requiring, as a condition of inspecting or copying records, that a person requesting the records provide his or her name, driver's license , employer's name or other personal or identifying information that is not required to view or copy records under state law;

- "Charging 'research,' 'look up,' or other illegal fees;

- "Failing to respond to lawful requests to inspect or copy public records in a timely fashion;

- "Failing to respond at all to lawful requests to inspect or copy public records;

- "Refusing to accept lawful requests to inspect or copy public records; and

- "Refusing to release public records upon lawful request."

Palo Alto filed a demurrer - joined by other cities, the state and county - alleging that the Naymarks' complaint failed to state a cause of action.

But the superior court overruled the demurrers, concluding that the CPRA does not preclude the Naymarks' action, which they pleaded with enough specificity.

The 6th District Court of Appeal agreed.

"As these quite detailed allegations were sufficiently specific to apprise petitioners of the bases for the Naymarks' causes of action," Justice Mihara wrote, "they were not susceptible to a general or special demurrer for lack of specificity or uncertainty."

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