IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE STATE OF WASHINGTON
FILED: January 23, 2012
Lau, J. â Inmate Percy Levy filed this action alleging that Snohomish County
unreasonably failed to comply with his request for documents under the Public Records
Act (PRA), chapter 42.56 RCW. Because the record establishes that the County
promptly and fully complied with the PRA, the trial court properly dismissed Levyâs
action on summary judgment. We therefore affirm.
The relevant facts are undisputed. On April 19, 2010, the Snohomish County
Prosecuting Attorneyâs Office received a public records request from inmate Percy
While pending trial back in 2002 (case #02-1-02453-4) my attorney
provided me with a statement made by my co-defendant Breena Johnson
(Martin). The statement was made to Everett Detectives.
I want a copy of that statement.
On the following day, April 20, 2010, David Wold, the designated public records
specialist for the prosecutorâs office, responded by letter to Levyâs request. Wold
expressed his belief that the prosecutorâs office had supplied Levy with all of Johnsonâs
statements in response to a previous request. Wold acknowledged that he could not
confirm the prior request because it had been purged in accordance with the office
retention schedule, and he requested clarification:
If you are seeking another interview by Everett Police that we have not provided,
our file apparently does not contain that record. If you are missing the
statements we previously provided, and those statements are what you are now
seeking, please advise us and we will be happy to provide you with another
On May 13, 2010, Wold received Levyâs response, dated May 6. Levy denied
that he had ever requested or received any statements by Johnson. Levy then
broadened his request to include âany statement made by Ms. Johnson in regards to
the 2002 crime where she was my codefendant.â
On the following day, May 14, Wold notified Levy that he had located two
statements by Johnsonâ(1) the 22-page statement she gave to police and (2) a 2page officerâs summary of a few comments that Johnson made after taking a polygraph
test. The letter detailed the various available formats and costs, including $8.07 for
copies of the two statements.
Shortly after May 18, 2010, the prosecutorâs office received two letters related to
Levyâs request for public records. The first was from Diane Kennedy, who enclosed a
money order for $8.07 on behalf of Levy âto cover the cost of the transcript he has
requested.â The second letter was from Levy, who disputed any need for clarification
of his original request. He then asked for an explanation of why Johnsonâs statements
âwere not located the last time I requested them.â
On May 27, 2010, Wold mailed the 22-page statement to Levy, but inadvertently
failed to include the 2-page officer summary. On the same date, Wold also responded
to Levyâs latest letter, explaining that he had requested clarification to make sure that
he provided the correct document and to prevent any needless expense for records
that were already received.
Following e-mail exchanges with Diane Kennedy on June 16, 2010, Wold
realized that he had failed to send Levy the 2-page officer summary. On June 17,
2010, he mailed Levy the officer summary and e-mailed a copy to Kennedy.
In a letter dated June 24, 2010, Levy acknowledged receipt of the documents.
Citing an alleged PRA violation, Levy expressed his willingness to settle the matter for
$580 in lieu of litigation.
On August 13, 2010, Levy filed this action against Snohomish County, alleging a
violation of the PRA. The County moved for summary judgment. Concluding that there
were no disputed facts, the trial court granted the motion on November 17, 2010. The
court denied Levyâs motion for reconsideration on December 27, 2010.
Levy contends that the County violated the PRA by making an unnecessary
request for clarification and failing to timely provide the requested records. We
The PRA mandates that agencies disclose any public record upon request,
unless it falls within a specific, enumerated exemption. Neighborhood Alliance of
Spokane County v. County of Spokane, 172 Wn.2d 702, 715, 261 P.3d 119 (2011).
We review agency actions under the PRA de novo. RCW 42.56.550(3); Neighborhood
Alliance, 172 Wn.2d at 715. We also review summary judgment orders de novo and
determine whether the supporting materials, viewed in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party, demonstrate âthat there is no genuine issue as to any material fact
and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.â CR 56(c);
Oltman v. Holland Am. Line USA, Inc., 163 Wn.2d 236, 243, 178 P.3d 981 (2008).
Under the PRA, agencies must respond âpromptlyâ to record requests.
RCW 42.56.520. At the time of Levyâs request, RCW 42.56.520 required the County,
within five business days, to (1) provide the requested record, (2) acknowledge receipt
and provide a reasonable estimate when it would respond, or (3) deny the request and
provide a written explanation for the action. But agencies may request additional time
âbased upon the need to clarify the intent of the request . . . .â RCW 42.56.520(4).
Levy contends that the Countyâs request for clarification unreasonably delayed
its compliance with the PRA, in violation of the five-day time limit in RCW 42.56.520.
He maintains that his original request was âobjectively clearâ and that clarification was
Levy originally requested a document that his attorney apparently showed him
during a 2002 criminal trial. As the County correctly notes, the request created an
immediate uncertainty because the County had no objective method for determining
what counsel had shown Levy. At a minimum, a person seeking documents under the
PRA must identify or describe the documents with sufficient clarity to allow the agency
to locate them. Hangartner v. City of Seattle, 151 Wn.2d 439, 447, 90 P.3d 26 (2004).
The PRA does not ârequire public agencies to be mind readers.â Bonamy v. City of
Seattle, 92 Wn. App. 403, 409, 960 P.2d 447 (1998).
Moreover, the public records specialist also recalled having previously provided
Levy with a statement by Johnson. Because the specialist was unable to confirm that
prior request, he could reasonably have suspected that Levy was asking for either a
different document or another copy of the previously provided document. Levyâs
contradictory claims about the prior request underscore the uncertainty. In his May 6,
2010 letter, Levy flatly denied ever requesting or receiving any statements by Johnson.
But in his May 18, 2010 letter, Levy requested information on where the two requested
documents were âwhen I requested them a few years ago.â Under the circumstances,
the Countyâs request for clarification was warranted and reasonable.
Levy contends that the 59 days that elapsed from April 19, 2010, the day the
County received his request, to June 17, 2010, when it mailed the 2-page officer
summary, constituted an unreasonable delay. But the great majority of this time
involved mailing delays associated with Levyâs incarceration.
The record here establishes that the County responded without delay to every
request or communication from Levy and his agent. The County did not withhold
documents or ignore or reject Levyâs requests. Rather, it timely disclosed, identified,
and made available all relevant documents. Although the County inadvertently failed to
include the 2-page officer summary in the initial mailing, it rectified that omission within
one business day of learning about it. Because Levy has not demonstrated any
violation of the PRA, the trial court properly dismissed his action on summary judgment.
See Greenhalgh v. Depât of Corr., 160 Wn. App.
06, 248 P.3d 150 (2011).