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Records Requested from Washington DOC Under Public Records Act May Be Rejected as Contraband

The Washington Department of Corrections (DOC) may reject as contraband records requested from the DOC under the Washington Public Records Act, the Washington Supreme Court held, July 3, 2008.

Michael Livingston, a Washington prisoner, filed a public disclosure request for the training records of a DOC guards. Finding no applicable exemption under the Public Records Act, the DOC mailed the requested records to Livingston at the Cedar Creek Corrections Center. However, Cedar Creek officials refused to give the records to Livingston, claiming that they threatened the “security and order” of the facility. Livingston was given the option of mailing the records to a non-incarcerated person, donating them, or destroying them.

Livingston sued the DOC, arguing that its refusal to provide the records violated the Public Records Act. According to Livingston, the DOC did not comply with its duty to make records “available” under the act by withholding the records from the person who requested them. Both the Thurston County Superior Court and the court of appeals disagreed. “The statute…does not require agencies to guarantee disclosure or guarantee that mailed documents will be physically received by the person making the request,” the court of appeals held.

The Washington Supreme Court accepted review and affirmed. “The Public Records Act does not limit the Department’s discretion in prohibiting entry of public records that it reasonably deems inappropriate in a prison setting,” the Court held. See: Livingston v. Cedeno, 164 Wn.2d 46 (Wa. S. Ct. 2008).

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Related legal case

Livingston v. Cedeno