When making a request for government documents under the California Records Act, people are sometimes told that no responsive records exist, or that after a diligent search, no more could be found.  As reported by Dorian Hargrove in the San Diego Reader, the Fourth District Court of Appeal has just ruled that if such a flatly disclaiming agency then provides access to those records after the requester files suit for their release, the agency can be ordered to pay the requester’s attorney fees.

This decision raises a valuable distinction from an earlier precedent in which the Court of Appeal in another district ruled that so long as an otherwise compliant agency was continuing in good faith to search its files for responsive information, the requester who had sued for access was not entitled to attorney fees when the agency then found and released more of what the request had sought.