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Andrews v. Washington State Patrol

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 3

September 16, 2014

John Andrews, Appellant ,
v.
The Washington State Patrol, Respondent

Appeal from Thurston Superior Court. Docket No: 12-2-00936-5. Judge signing: Honorable Christine Schaller. Judgment or order under review. Date filed: 02/08/2013.

John C. Andrews, for appellant.

Robert W. Ferguson, Attorney General, and Shelley A. Williams, Assistant, for respondent.

Authored by Robert E. Lawrence-Berrey. Concurring: Laurel H. Siddoway, Kevin M. Korsmo.

OPINION

Page 95

[183 Wn.App. 646] Lawrence-Berrey, J.

¶ 1 RCW 42.56.100 requires that an agency responding to public records requests provide " the fullest assistance to inquirers and the most timely possible action on requests for information." Some agencies are beleaguered with several hundred or even thousands of public records requests in a short period of time. When an agency, despite acting diligently, fails to comply with its self-imposed deadlines, a question arises: Should courts apply rigid rules that penalize a diligent but late response, or may courts take a flexible approach?

¶ 2 We determine that a flexible approach that focuses upon the thoroughness and diligence of an agency's response is most consistent with the concept of " fullest assistance." We, therefore, affirm the trial court's summary judgment order in favor of the Washington State Patrol (WSP).

FACTS

¶ 3 After discovering that some attorney-client telephone conversations were being recorded in a WSP breath alcohol [183 Wn.App. 647] concentration room, John Andrews submitted a public records request on March 8, 2012, seeking the following:

All of the following requests are limited to WSP District One office from January 1, 2009 involving [driving under the influence] suspect/defendant
1. Policies or procedures regarding recording attorney-client telephone conversations
2. Copy of all recorded attorney-client telephone conversations
3. Copies of any documents authorizing the WSP to record ...

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