California Supreme Court Rules Local Governments To Turn Over Mapping Data

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On July 8, 2013, the Supreme Court of California decided local government must turn over computer mapping data without charging excessive fees.

The decision involved an appeal by the Sierra Club, which was charged $375,000 by Orange County for a mapping database of 640,000 land parcels that were in geographic information system (“GIS”) format and can be read by most mapping software.

The case, which took six years to make its way through the courts, included an Amicus Brief submitted by Otten & Joyce, LLP on behalf of 212 GIS Professionals and 23 GIS Organizations who argued that only the cost of the duplication was required to obtain the database.

The Sierra Club, which sought the data to identify land that might be suitable for conservation projects, refused to pay and sued. The California Supreme Court reversed two lower courts and agreed with the Sierra Club and Otten & Joyce. The high court ruled the records were public and should be made available “at a cost not to exceed the direct cost of duplication.”


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