Arrange a learning session in your community or newsroom by Terry Francke, Californians Aware’s general counsel.

Top 10 Workshops

These workshops are designed for open government law beginners and old hands alike. They offer brief, but informative, introductions to what you need to know about the Brown Act, California Public Records Act, Free Speech Laws, and even an explanation of Proposition 59. This series is particularly good for citizens interested in becoming more involved in civic affairs, newly elected public officials, and journalists who need a refresher course.

Programs Suited for All

“Your group” means a collective you assemble or invite to attend our workshops on open government and First Amendment law. The group may consist of a gathering of public officials or employees, a newspaper or broadcaster’s staff, a civic league’s membership, a local bar association, or some combination of individuals from several or all of these ranks. Presenter Terry Francke has been doing workshops for such groups around the state for more than 20 years.

Your Role and What the Event Will Cost

As host, you are expected to cover the basic fee of $250 for the event plus travel expenses, and provide a suitable presentation room and laptop presentation projector and screen. The fee can be waived if five of your group or newsroom members enrol as individual CalAware members at $60 per year.

Program Content

The following are the program “Top 10” points for the basic workshops.
Top 10 Points to Remember about Access to Local Government Meetings under the Ralph M. Brown Act
  1. The Act applies to “legislative” bodies of local government agencies.
  2. The Act applies when the majority of a body collectively hears, discusses or acts.
  3. A body may meet outside agency boundaries only for certain purposes.
  4. Agendas and notices must be posted and accessible, and adhered to at the meeting.
  5. Meeting-related records are available to the public as soon as the body gets them.
  6. Citizens may address the body on matters that it has authority to deal with.
  7. Closed sessions are permitted to discuss prospective or current employees.
  8. Closed sessions are permitted to guide sensitive legal or bargaining processes.
  9. Some information must be disclosed before and after closed sessions.
  10. Violations of the Act may justify court action as correction or punishment.
Top 10 Points to Remember about Making a California Public Records Act Request
  1. The agency has the burden of justifying the denial of access.
  2. The request need not be in writing.
  3. The request need not identify the requester.
  4. The request need not state the requester’s purpose.
  5. The scope of the request must be reasonably clear.
  6. The agency need not compile lists or write reports.
  7. The agency must do its best to help the requester succeed
  8. Fees are for the costs of copying, not for those of inspection.
  9. Prompt access is required for clearly public records.
  10. Journalists and other people have the same rights of access.
Top 10 Points to Remember about Exemptions from the California Public Records Act
  1. Most CPRA exemptions are discretionary.
  2. Exemptions are waived by selective disclosure.
  3. An exempt part does not justify withholding the whole.
  4. Drafts are not inherently and entirely exempt.
  5. Litigation documents may be withheld while the case is alive.
  6. Personal information may be withheld if release would unjustifiably invade privacy.
  7. Law enforcement investigative files may be withheld, but not the basic facts.
  8. Information that is privileged or confidential otherwise is exempt.
  9. The “balancing test” may justify non-disclosure in well-defined instances.
  10. The deliberative process privilege may apply to pre-decisional records.
Top 10 Points to Remember about Censorship and Speech Regulation under the First Amendment
  1. The First Amendment limits control of speech by the government—not by others.
  2. The government may seldom censor content.
  3. The government may never suppress—and may never compel—a particular viewpoint.
  4. Sometimes, no matter what is to be said, The government may limit when, where or how.
  5. Just how free speech is often depends on its setting—its “forum.”
  6. A speech permit or license must be available on objective, content-neutral grounds.
  7. Doorstep speech may not be regulated if nothing is sought but the resident’s attention.
  8. Most public employees may not be silenced by superiors on matters of public interest.
  9. Students’ speech is more protected by California law than by the First Amendment.
  10. The First Amendment conveys no right that is in principle uniquely that of the press.
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