Introduction last revised: October 31, 2016
The purpose of this Open Government Resource Manual is to provide summary information about the Public Records Act (PRA), chapter 42.56 RCW and the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA), chapter 42.30 RCW. These laws are often called “sunshine laws.” This manual is a resource for members of the public and state and local agencies. Referenced statutes, cases and rules are linked. Click on the links to read more information, including the full language of the statutes. This manual is only an overview of some of the provisions of these two laws and is not legal advice. This manual also provides some hypothetical case examples, based on certain facts. If the facts are different, or if the laws or court precedents have changed since this manual was prepared, the analysis in a hypothetical may not apply. This manual also references Attorney General’s Office non-binding Model Rules, which are linked and are also available on the Attorney General’s website. This manual is not an Attorney General Opinion, but several formal opinions are referenced and linked.
Remember: Laws change and courts can issue decisions explaining the PRA and OPMA. In the case of a difference between this manual and statutes or court decisions, the laws and judicial opinions govern.
On July 1, 2006, the PRA was moved from chapter 42.17 RCW to chapter 42.56 RCW. Therefore, this manual uses the current chapter 42.56 RCW citations. Some of the cases and older Attorney General Opinions cited in this manual use the former citations in chapter 42.17 RCW. A recodification conversion chart is available on the Attorney General’s website.
And, as described above, links are provided to the referenced court decisions. Decisions include direct links to a copy provided by the Municipal Research and Services Center or online copies. State court decisions are also available on the Washington State Judicial Opinions Website. You can search for decisions on the courts' website by party names, terms, citations, and judge. Recent opinions (“slip opinions”) are also available on the courts’ website here.
Finally, this manual discusses records and meetings of state and local agencies. Courts are not subject to the Open Public Meetings Act or Public Records Act, and access to court records is governed by court rules and Article I, Section 10 of the Washington State Constitution. The relevant rules are on the Washington State Courts website. See, for example, General Rule (GR) 31 (Access to Court Records) and General Rule (GR) 31.1 (Access to Administrative Records). Records of the Washington State Legislature are defined at RCW 42.56.010(3) and RCW 40.14.100. Discussion of court and legislative records is outside the scope of this manual.