California Public Records Act Request

About CPRA Requests

A CPRA request may be made verbally or in writing.  A public agency may not require that a request be made in writing.  If you receive a verbal request (either in person or over the phone), please write down the specifics of the request to the best of your ability. 

The CPRA defines a public record as any writing containing information relating to the conduct of the public's business, prepared, owned, used, or retained by the public agency. "Records" include hard copy documents, electronic documents, voicemail recordings, videos, photos, etc. This includes email and text messages sent on College of the Desert email servers and via District devices. This may also include emails, text messages, or other communications sent on personal devices,  or sent via private email accounts (if the communication relates to the conduct of the public's business). 

An individual making a CPRA request is not required to identify themselves, and a public agency may not require that an individual identify themselves as a prerequisite to making a CPRA request. The public agency may request that the individual identify themselves, but the individual is not required to.

A public agency is required to respond to a CPRA request within ten days.  

General Counsel will review the request, coordinate gathering any responsive documents, and determine whether or not any statutory exemptions apply to the disclosure of the responsive documents. 

Remember, we are public servants doing work on behalf of our communities.  Any documents we create in the course of our work at College of the Desert (including email) may be a public document subject to disclosure.  Always remember that our work is public in nature and College of the Desert records are subject to the CPRA.

CPRA Presentation


The legislature, mindful of the right of individuals to privacy, finds and declares that access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business is a fundamental and necessary right of every person in this state.” - GC Section 6250

What Is a Record?

  • A record is any writing containing information relating to the conduct of the public’s business
    • "Writing" means any handwriting, typewriting, printing, photostating, photographing, videoing, photocopying, transmitting by electronic mail or facsimile, and every other means of recording upon any tangible thing any form of communication or representation…regardless of the manner in which the record has been stored.
    • Electronic documents (including email) are subject to disclosure under the CPRA.
    • "Containing information related to the conduct of the public’s business" means if a record is maintained by your college because it is necessary or convenient to the discharge of official duties, it is a "public record."
    • Mere custody of a writing does not make it a public record
    • Examples of non-records: coffee invite, personal shopping list
  • A record is prepared, owned, used or retained by any state or local agency
    • CPRA applies only to documents that exist at the time of the request
    • The District/colleges are not required to create a document in response to a request
    • No duty to create specific format (for example: Excel spreadsheet)
    • No duty to connect the dots
  • It is considered a record regardless of physical form or characteristics
    • Paper/hard copies
    • Emails
    • Handwritten notes
    • PDF and Word Files
    • Photographs
    • Videos
    • Voicemails
    • Text Messages
    • Records on a private device or personal email account if they relate to the conduct of the public’s business
    • Format doesn’t matter - if you have a record, it is subject to disclosure under the CPRA unless an exemption applies!

About a Request's Format

  • There are no “magic words” in a request
  • The request may be verbal or written
  • The requester may remain anonymous

If a request can be reasonably construed as a request for public records, it is a CPRA request.

General Counsel Action

  • The General Counsel coordinates CPRA responses on behalf of the District
  • General Counsel review the request, coordinate gathering any responsive documents, and determine whether any statutory exemptions apply
  • General Counsel ensure compliance with the CPRA by:
    • Providing an initial response within ten days
    • Checking the request for reasonably identifiable records
    • Fulfilling the District’s duty to assist the requester

Types of Responses

There are three types of responses:

  1. Disclose the record
  2. Withhold the record (must state specific legal basis, identify person responsible for decision)
  3. Disclose the record in redacted form

General Rule:

A fee covering direct costs of duplication, or a statutory fee if applicable. - GC Section 6253(b)

North County Parents v. Dept. of Ed. (1994)

  • Department charged $0.25 per page, included staff time searching for, reviewing records
  • Court: direct cost of duplication does not include staff time associated with retrieval, inspection, handling
  • Direct cost of duplication “is the cost of running the copy machine, and conceivably also the expense of the person operating it"

Requester pays the cost of programming or computer services when the request would require data compilation, extraction, or programming to produce. - GC 6253.9(b)

The California Public Records Act does allow for some limited exemptions in very specific circumstances. General Counsel will review requests and determine if any exemptions are applicable to a given request.

  • Must make electronic records available in electronic format
  • In any format prepared, owned, used or retained by the college
  • May recover only the direct cost of duplication (cost of paper, cost of flash drive)
  • No duty to compromise computer system security

  • The public has a fundamental right to information
  • Requesters may sue to challenge a denial
    • If the plaintiff prevails, the college pays the plaintiff’s legal fees - this is a mandatory payment
    • The college may only recover legal fees if a suit is “clearly frivolous”
  • We are public servants who represent College of the Desert, our colleges, and our communities
  • We are conducting the public’s business and expending public funds
  • Any documents we create in the course of our work at College of the Desert (including email) may be a public document subject to disclosure
  • The court of public opinion: this is about the public’s perception of how its business is conducted

  • When in doubt, ask for help!
  • Your legal office is here to help
  • We coordinate response to CPRA requests
  • We ensure timely compliance with the CPRA
  • We determine whether or not exemptions apply to disclosure