WA Supreme Court: PRA Requires Some Detailed Explanation as to Claimed Exemptions
Lakewood redacted some drivers’ license numbers within PRA requests. They cited generally some statutes, including RCW 42.56.240 (general law enforcement exemptions), RCW 46.52.120 (Records of Convictions and Infractions), and RCW 46.52.130 (abstract of driving record). Note that there is no subsection there, just the general statute.
After being called to the carpet over the vagueness, the city responded with another citation and a case, and said that redaction of drivers’ license numbers was “self-evident.”
We find the city's response did not meet [the] standard. In its response to each request, the city either failed to cite a specific exemption or failed to provide any explanation for how a cited "other" statute exemption applied to the redacted driver’s license numbers in the specific records produced. Consequently the burden was shifted to the requester to sift through the statutes cited by the city and parse out possible exemption claims. This was improper under the PRA.
Now, we are left with a bit of a conundrum. On the one hand, the rules don’t require a correct explanation of the cited authority for withholding, but it does require some explanation. The four person dissent points out that this opinion will have the effect of requiring a correct citation.
Interesting case, for sure.
Issaquah Legal Services Personal Injury Attorneys are skilled in using the Public Records Act to move you case forward and can help you in parsing through the complexities of the PRA if you need to respond.