Administrative Public Records Requests
Benton County District CourtI. Policy Statement:
Administrative Public Records Requests
Policy and Procedures
District Court shall respond promptly to all administrative record requests. This shall be done in accordance with both the letter and the spirit of General Rule 31.1 (GR 31.1 Access to Administrative Records) and case law related to the disclosure of administrative judicial records.
This policy sets forth the process by which District Court handles administrative records requests. Information for members of the public interested in filing a request for administrative records is found in GR 31.1 and at www.courts.wa.gov.
B. Staffing of Administrative Records Requests
The District Court Administrator or a designated backup will be the Public Records Officer and shall be responsible for processing all administrative records requests for District Court. The Public Records Officer, and/or the designated backup, shall report to the Presiding Judge or the Presiding Judge’s designee.
C. Processing of Records Requests
1. Distribution of Requests and Preservation of Records
The Public Records Officer shall determine which employees may have records responsive to the request. The Public Records Officer shall make requests for records from appropriate staff, setting a time for response and ensure that any records potentially responsive to the request are not destroyed pending the processing of the request.
2. Searching for Responsive Documents
Each employee contacted shall either:
(1) indicate that he or she has no responsive documents;
(2) indicate that he or she has responsive documents and provide them;
(3) specify a reasonable time within which he or she can search for the records and provide a more thorough response; or
(4) describe how the request should be clarified.
If the employee has responsive documents, he or she shall provide them to the Public Records Officer, and if documents are exempt or may be exempt from public disclosure, the Public Records Officer shall provide a summary of why the documents are or may be exempt with specific reference to the provision of GR 31.1, state or federal law that is the basis for the exemption. In the event that it is difficult to produce copies of the responsive documents, either because of size or format or because they are numerous, the employee shall contact the Public Records Officer to determine whether there are alternatives to producing copies. The Public Records Officer shall ensure that records of former staff members are also searched for the requested information.
3. Providing Response to the Requestor
The Public Records Officer shall respond to the requestor within five business days after receiving the request by:
(1) providing responsive documents along with a statement of why any documents are exempt from disclosure;
(2) providing a date by which responsive documents will be provided; or;
(3) requesting clarification of the request.
The Public Records Officer may assess certain fees and costs and require prepayment. The Public Records Officer shall make every effort to work with the requestor to clarify the request and to provide responsive documents.
4. Protective Orders
If any employee becomes aware of a court order that limits the disclosure of any administrative records, he or she should communicate the substance of such order and provide, if able, a copy of the order to the Public Records Officer.
5. Requests Received by Employees
If a request for records is directed to an employee, the employee shall indicate to the requestor that their request should be directed to the Public Records Officer or the designated backup and provide the appropriate contact information.
6. Electronic Records
The Public Records Officer shall work with the requestor to determine the appropriate format for providing responsive records. If records are requested with metadata intact, the Public Records Officer shall work with the appropriate Information Technology Department to provide records in native format to the extent possible.
7. Tracking Public Records Requests
The Public Records Officer shall track public records requests and their related communications with requestors by logging all requests, responses, exemptions, and other communication regarding the requests.
A. District Court
District Court shall make every effort to comply with the letter and spirit of GR 31.1 and respond by the due date as provided by the Public Records Officer.
B. Public Records Officer
1. The Public Records Officer shall coordinate the overall public records process. He/she shall work with the requestors to clarify requests, forward requests to appropriate staff or judicial officers, provide timely responses to requestors, and track all requests, exemptions and responses.
2. The Public Records Officer shall promptly forward administrative records requests to the appropriate staff and ensure that those staff perform a diligent search for responsive records in a timely manner. The Public Records Officer shall ensure that the requested records are not destroyed pending any request for them.
3. The Public Records Officer shall work with the County’s Information Services Division in responding to requests for electronic records and assist in providing customized access where appropriate.