GR 12.4 - Washington State Bar Association Access to Records
Comments for GR 12.4 must be received no later than August 26, 2013.
Proposed New Rule
GENERAL RULES (GR)
GR 12.4 — Access to Records of the Washington State Bar Association
Overview. Proposed GR 12.4 is a revised version of a proposal that was originally submitted by the Washington State Bar Association, which was published for public comment in November 2011. The proposal sets forth the standards and procedures related to public access to the Bar Association’s records.
The Bar Association’s summary of the original proposal is available at this link:
http://www.courts.wa.gov/court_rules/?fa=court_rules.proposedRuleDisplayArchive&ruleId=269. Also available at that link is the original proposal and the public comments that were submitted.
Since the receipt of those public comments on the original proposal, the Supreme Court has held a series of meetings to consider the proposed rule and to make sure that it is consistent with the companion rule that is being drafted for public access to the judiciary’s administrative records, proposed GR 31.1.
As part of that process, the Supreme Court requested that the Bar Association submit a revised version of the rule. The Supreme Court has made additional changes to that version and is now publishing the new version for the receipt of further public comments.
Summary of the revisions contained in the current proposed rule. The current version of the proposed rule involves many changes from the original proposal. The most notable changes include:
- Presumption of public access. Language has been added to the rule’s opening section expressly recognizing that Bar Association records are presumed to be open to public access, subject to exceptions. See section (a).
- Revisions for the exemptions. The original proposal included a long list of exemptions, including many that were already set forth elsewhere and did not need to be repeated in this proposed rule. In the current proposal, the exemptions have been consolidated and many of the exemptions that are stated elsewhere have been deleted. See section (d).
- Process for records decisions. Under the current proposal, the Bar Association will appoint a staff member to serve as its public records officer. A person who objects to a decision of the public records officer may request review by the Bar Association’s Executive Director. Timelines are set forth for the steps in the process. See sections (e)(1) and (h)(1).
- External review of records decisions. The current proposal has a new method for obtaining review of the Bar Association’s records decisions. Decisions by the Bar’s Executive Director are now subject to review by a Records Request Appeals Officer (RRAO), who is appointed by the Bar’s Board of Governors. If a person objects to the RRAO’s decision, further review may be sought by filing a request for discretionary review with the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court grants review, the RRAO’s decision would be reviewed by the Chief Justice or his or her designee; the designee must be a current or former elected judge. Timelines are set up for the steps in this external review process. See section (h)(2).
- Addition of new language similar to that contained in the companion rule, proposed GR 31.1:
- Persons who are subjects of records. A provision has been added that allows the Bar Association to notify a person who is the subject of a record that the record has been requested. The person may then participate in the process for determining whether the record will be released. See section (d)(3).
- Charging of fees. A section has been added allowing the Bar Association to charge fees for copying/scanning records and to charge a research fee in some cases. See section (e)(2).
- No monetary awards. A provision is added stating that attorney fees, costs, penalties, or fines may not be awarded under the rule.
- Prospective effect of rule. A provision has been added specifying that the rule applies to records that are created on or after the rule’s effective date. See section (j)(1).
- Delayed effective date. A provision has been added providing for a delayed effective date. The delayed effective date is designed to allow time for implementation. See section (j)(1).