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Washington Prisoner Awarded $210 for Untimely PRA Response

The Washington Court of Appeal has affirmed the award of sanctions to Kevin Mitchell, a prisoner at the Stafford Creek Corrections Center, when the Department of Corrections (Department) responded to his public records request in an untimely manner.

In May 2007, Mitchell submitted a request, pursuant to Washington’s Public Records Act (PRA), for information pertaining to his mail records. He amended the request in June and then in July 2007 submitted a second request, seeking records regarding the interception of his mail by the Department’s Intelligence and Investigations (I & I) Unit. In November 2007, after paying for copying and postage, Mitchell was sent copies responsive to his first amended request. He was also informed that there were no documents responsive to his second (I & I) request.

In September 2008, Mitchell moved in trial court for an award of penalties because the Department, he claimed, never responded to his requests for I & I documents. The trial court ruled that the Department had provided all the records in its possession responsive to Mitchell’s requests; that there was no obligation under the PRA to provide records (such as those from I & I) which did not exist; and that the Department’s response was untimely (by 42 days). Finding that the delay was attributable to mere negligence (not bad faith), the trial court exercised its discretion and imposed the minimum ($5) per day penalty permitted by statute.

On Mitchell’s appeal, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s ruling in its entirety. See: Mitchell v. Washington Department of Corrections, No. 38767-1-II (Court of Appeal, Div. II).

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Related legal case

Mitchell v. Washington Department of Corrections