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"Work Product" Exempted From Public Records Act

"Work Product" Exempted From Public Records Act

On December 12, 2005, Washington State resident, David Koenig, submitted a request to the Pierce County Prosecutor under the auspices of that state's Public Records Act (PRA) for records pertaining to a specific criminal investigation. He sent a similar request to the Pierce County Sheriff's Department the same day. The following month, the prosecutor's office notified Koenig that of the 381 pages of documents in the file he requested, all but 172 would be withheld as work product exempt from disclosure under
PRA guidelines.

According to Limstrom v. Landenburg, 136 Wn. 2d 595, 611, 963 P. 2d 869 (1998), "work product" records are exempted from disclosure under the PRA "unless the person requesting disclosure demonstrates substantial need and inability, without undue hardship, to obtain the documents or items from another source." In light of the fact that Koenig could obtain the documents from the Sheriff's office, the prosecutor was not compelled to release them.

On January 2, 2007, Koenig filed suit against Pierce County for withholding the documents. On May 9, 2008, the court dismissed Koenig's claim with prejudice, and denied his subsequent motion for reconsideration. Koenig appealed this decision, and, on July 13, 2009, the appellate court upheld the prosecutor's right to withhold the records based on Limstrom. The court also denied Koenig's motion for reconsideration.

See: Koenig v. Pierce County, 211 P.3d 423 (2009), WA. App. Ct., Div. I, #61821-1-I.

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Related legal case

Koenig v. Pierce County