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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sargent v. Seattle Police Dep't: New PRA Case

A pretty significant Public Records Act case was decided by the Court of Appeals.

NOTE: Greg Overstreet of Allied Law Group was co-counsel for the requestor.

Here is how the court summarized the holding:

This case is brought under the Public Records Act (PRA), chapter 42.56 RCW. The chief issue is whether a request for public records has indefinite effect, such that after an agency has responded to a request, it must monitor the status of all records within the request and disclose any that later become subject to disclosure. We must also decide whether the categorical exemption for records of an open and active law enforcement investigation terminated at the point of the last witness interview; whether the open and active investigation exemption applies to internal police disciplinary records; whether certain redactions to the disclosures
made here were justified; and what penalties and fees are appropriate.

We hold that there is no standing request under the PRA. We also hold the
statutory exemption for records of an open and active law enforcement investigation
does not end with the final witness interview; the open and active exemption applies
to police disciplinary investigation records; certain redactions from the records were
not justified; the statutory maximum penalty is not appropriate where there is no
showing of gross negligence, bad faith, or other improper conduct; and Sargent’s fees
were improperly limited.

We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings
consistent with this opinion.