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On gathering public records

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Posted: Wednesday, September 18, 2013 3:26 pm

Local attorney and occasional LNS columnist Dave Wellenbrock tipped us to a session Tuesday night in Stockton on accessing public records.

This isn't a task limited to journalists. Many regular citizens can and do file public records requests.

Our police and courts reporter, Kris Anderson, attended the session and took a few notes, which I am passing along here:

Tips for submitting a records request from Paul Boylan, ESQ:

-Ask for records, not just information.

-Be specific with records requests.

-Identify why your request is in the interest of the public.

-Put your request in writing.

-Limit your request in time and scope.

-Presume a judge will one day read your request.

-If you're asking for something that could be erased (emails, for example) ask for the records to be preserved while agency is looking for them.

A final note: At least two organizations in California stand ready to help with record requests from journalists and non-journalists alike:

The First Amendment Coalition at firstamendmentcoalition.org

CaliforniansAware at calaware.org.

If you do peek into public records and find something interesting, please let us know.

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