In 2005, the Washington Legislature amended the Public Records Act to shorten the statute of limitations from five years to one year. See Laws of 2005, ch. 483, § 5; former RCW 42.17.410. Actions for judicial review under RCW 42.56.550 now “must be filed within one year of the agency’s claim of exemption or the last production of a record on a partial or installment basis.” RCW 42.56.550(6). Since this amendment, however, appellate courts have given the statute inconsistent treatment in cases involving single productions where no exemptions were claimed by the agency. This issue most recently arose in last week’s decision from Washington’s Court of Appeals (Division I) in Mahmoud v. Snohomish County, No. 70757-4-I (unpublished). There, the court held that the one-year statute of limitations barred all of the requestor’s claims.
Division I previously addressed this statute in Tobin v. Worden, 156 Wn. App. 507 (2010). In that case, the court held that the one-year limitations period is triggered only by a claim of exemption or the agency’s “last partial production” – meaning the production of a record that is “part of a larger set of requested records.” Id. at 514 (quoting RCW 42.56.080). Because the production in Tobin involved no exemption and the production of a single document, the court held that the one-year statute of limitations did not apply.