Tag Archives: Amicus Curiae

A Coalition Of Poverty-Focused Community-Driven Advocacy And Legal Aid Organizations Filed An Amicus Brief With The California Supreme Court Asking That They Review The Abominable Court Of Appeals Opinion In National Lawyers Guild V. City Of Hayward — Which Held That Agencies Can Charge For Time Spent Redacting Electronic Records — Now Being Used By The LAPD To Functionally Deny Everyone Access To Emails — This Was In November 2018 But I Just Recently Got A Copy — The Supremes Did Agree To Hear It — And I Also Have A Copy Of The Stunning Opening Brief

Don’t know if you’re aware, but in September 2018 the California Court of Appeal held that local agencies could charge CPRA requesters for staff time for redacting electronic records. In particular, the City of Hayward charged the National Lawyers Guild more than $3,000 to redact some parts of bodycam videos. It’s well-established for paper records that agencies must allow inspection at no cost and if copies are requested, can charge only the direct cost of copying.

The Court of Appeals based its opinion on the CPRA’s much-abused §6253.9(b)(2) which states that an agency can charge a requester for the bare privilege of inspecting a record under a small set of very specific circumstances:

… the requester shall bear the cost of producing a copy of the record, including the cost to construct a record, and the cost of programming and computer services necessary to produce a copy of the record when … [t]he request would require data compilation, extraction, or programming to produce the record.

The court’s reasoning was that redaction of a video constitutes extraction required to produce the record. Sane people can see, however, that the video already exists. Nothing is required to produce it. This section is talking about e.g. running queries against databases, where the requester only wants certain information and the results of the query constitute a new record that “would require data compilation, extraction, or programming to produce.”

And as you can imagine, after this opinion was published, obstructionist anti-CPRA lawyers all over the state started drooling on their pillows in glee. For instance, Carol Humiston, the soon-to-be-disbarred Rasputinian ear-whisperer to transparency-averse business improvement districts all over Los Angeles, advised her clients on the basis of this decision to assert that if I wanted to see any more of their damn emails I would have to pay for them to buy Adobe Pro so that they could redact them.

She backed off on this outlandish claim after I pointed out repeatedly that emails weren’t found in the wild as PDFs so that there was no case to be made for purchasing an expensive PDF editor to do a job that the built-in text editors that come with every computer operating system could do better. However, the LAPD also glommed onto this case, and the City Attorney’s office began theorizing madly, and now if you submit a request to LAPD for emails through NextRequest you’re met with an aggressive notice warning you that you’re going to pay and pay and pay unless you withdraw your request right now, and the notice explicitly cites the case.

So yeah, this opinion sucks and sucks big time, and it doesn’t just suck in theory, it’s actively sucking in practice even now as I write these very words. But at least it was appealed to the California Supreme Court. And at least the Supreme Court agreed to hear it. And papers have been filed, but it turns out to be really hard to get pleadings out of the Supreme Court.

But recently I was lucky enough to obtain a couple of interesting items. Here’s an amicus letter from a coalition of public interest law firms and activist organizations explaining the harm that the decision is doing. And here’s the opening brief, which explains in well-reasoned and exceedinly convincing terms why the Court should reverse this extraordinarily bad appellate decision. Both are fabulously worth reading, and there’s a transcription of the amicus letter after the break.
Continue reading A Coalition Of Poverty-Focused Community-Driven Advocacy And Legal Aid Organizations Filed An Amicus Brief With The California Supreme Court Asking That They Review The Abominable Court Of Appeals Opinion In National Lawyers Guild V. City Of Hayward — Which Held That Agencies Can Charge For Time Spent Redacting Electronic Records — Now Being Used By The LAPD To Functionally Deny Everyone Access To Emails — This Was In November 2018 But I Just Recently Got A Copy — The Supremes Did Agree To Hear It — And I Also Have A Copy Of The Stunning Opening Brief

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Amicus Briefs Filed In Orange County Catholic Worker Case In Support Of Injunction Against Evictions, Hearing On Tuesday Morning, February 13

For background, see Luke Money‘s excellent coverage in the Times, starting with this January 29 article on the Lawsuit and continuing with this article on the February 13 hearing. You can also download selected pleadings in the case from our Archive.Org site.

Last week Judge Carter issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting Orange County, the City of Anaheim, and anyone else who might be minded to do so from arresting anyone on the bed of the Santa Ana River for trespassing, camping, and similar anti-homeless offenses. Prior to this, on February 4, in the order setting the fast-approaching February 13 hearing1 on the plaintiffs’ original application for a restraining order, Carter invited a broad range of non-parties to appear at Tuesday’s hearing:

The Court also welcomes attendance at the hearing and written briefing by any amicus groups, which may include veterans’ organizations, service providers, abused women’s protection and housing organizations, and other cities affected by the homelessness crisis in Orange County that are not named as Defendants in this case.

Well, beginning last Friday and continuing on through tonight, a number of amicus briefs were filed. You can find a list and links to the actual pleadings after the break. Also, although I’m not really committing myself to covering every aspect of this case, it’s been really interesting so far, so I went ahead and set up a page on the Archive to collect pleadings.
Continue reading Amicus Briefs Filed In Orange County Catholic Worker Case In Support Of Injunction Against Evictions, Hearing On Tuesday Morning, February 13

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Unidentified Business Improvement District Seeks Free CPRA Advice From First Amendment Coalition, Does Not Get Answer They Are Looking For

The First Amendment Coalition is, in their own words,

… an award-winning, nonprofit public interest organization dedicated to advancing free speech, more open and accountable government, and public participation in civic affairs.

and their mission includes the fairly forthright statement that

The Coalition is committed to the principle that government is accountable to the people, and strives through education, public advocacy, litigation, and other efforts to prevent unnecessary government secrecy and to resist censorship of all kinds.

For instance, in furtherance of this mission, the FAC is presently suing the City of Los Angeles over Tom LaBonge’s immoral and idiotic destruction of records from his time as Councilmember. They were also a friend of the court in the recent momentous California Supreme Court decision making the personal email accounts of public officials open to CPRA for material that relates to the public’s business. This is not an organization that anyone sane would expect to be sympathetic to the whiny, entitled, and clueless complaints of a business improvement district that has been asked to comply with its legal obligations under the California Public Records Act, amirite?

One of the most useful services that the FAC provides is called Asked & Answered. People can send in questions about CPRA and the Brown Act and the FAC’s attorneys from Bryan Cave will answer them publicly and for free if they might interest a wider audience. These questions are usually from people frustrated by inane, self-serving, and illegal government obstructionism in the face of CPRA requests. So imagine my surprise when, a few days ago, this little gem of a question appeared:

Q: As a Business Improvement District, we are an agency of our local gov’t and subject to PRAs. I have submitted countless reports, minutes/agendas, financials and even a record of one full year of emails. Now I have been asked to submit the email database I have developed for communicating with my business members.

I am not comfortable giving this database to the public. While I have no problem disclosing my email correspondence, I do not feel right giving my email database to someone who can then send mass emails to these businesses.

Do I have to submit the database if requested through the CPRA?

Well, given the FAC’s general orientation towards CPRA, you can probably imagine the answer, and you can also read it, with some commentary and the usual uninformed speculation, after the break.
Continue reading Unidentified Business Improvement District Seeks Free CPRA Advice From First Amendment Coalition, Does Not Get Answer They Are Looking For

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