In 2014, the Court of Appeals in City of San Jose v. Superior Court of Santa Clara County determined that emails and other written materials sent on employees’ personal accounts were not subject to disclosure under the Public Records Act (“PRA”). The case was appealed to the California Supreme Court. The Supreme Court finally issued its decision last week, reversing the Court of Appeals and holding that all non-exempt records, deemed responsive to the PRA request and located on employees’ personal devices, must be disclosed.
The Supreme Court’s decision has substantial implications for all government employers, including school districts. However, when a PRA request is received, public agencies should now notify all employees who may have responsive records on their personal devices, and require that such records be produced. Those employees should also be required to submit a sworn declaration indicating that all responsive records have been provided.
Even when records are held on an employee’s personal device, government employers are not obligated to release records that are “exempt” from disclosure under the PRA’s many potential exemptions. Before disclosing requested records, agencies should allow their legal counsel to review the request to determine what, if any exemptions apply.
Kingsley Bogard is in the process of analyzing the decision to determine what, if any, additional policy changes must be implemented as a result of the Supreme Court’s ruling. In the meantime, please feel free to contact us with any questions.
Nothing in this post is intended to provide legal advice. If you have any questions about these cases, the Public Records Act, or any other issue, please contact Kingsley Bogard LLP.