Tag Archives: California Constitution Article I Section 3

Senator Ben Hueso Introduced SB615 Yesterday — Would Gut California Public Records Act By Requiring Proof That Noncompliant Agencies Knowingly And Willfully Withheld Records — This Would Make It Extremely Difficult For Requesters To Recover Fees — Which Would Make It Extremely Difficult For Requesters To Hire A Lawyer — Which Would Decimate The Already Lousy Compliance Level

Yesterday, February 22, 2019, Senator Ben Hueso introduced SB 615, a bill which would rewrite the California Public Records Act to make it radically more difficult for requesters to file and win petitions against noncompliant public agencies. As it stands, a petition filed in Superior Court is the only mechanism for enforcement of this essential law. Most people can’t afford lawyers, of course, but the CPRA at least tries to ameliorate this flaw by making it relatively easy for requesters to recover attorney’s fees from noncompliant agencies.

The law presently says that a requester wins a CPRA suit if the suit induces the agency to produce a record that was previously withheld. It’s not necessary to prove that the agency withheld the record on purpose. In fact, in Community Youth Athletic Center v. National City the California Court of Appeals specifically held that even incompetence or neglect were not valid excuses for not producing. Hueso’s bill would nullify this opinion and many others like it and require requesters to show that agencies “knowingly, willfully, and without substantial justification failed to respond to a request for records.”

In my extensive experience, agencies are already expert at denying access to records without ever saying that that’s what they’re doing. Instead they create an endless series of delays, errors, failures to respond quickly, and so on, which add up to a denial. I have had public agencies shine me on for years this way. And sadly judges are generally so deferential to public agencies that it’s already nearly impossible to prove that an agency involved in this kind of disingenuous delay is in violation. If it becomes necessary to prove that they’re doing it on purpose in order to recover fees there will be even fewer lawyers than there already are willing to take on these cases.

The bill would add a few other ways for a requester to prevail. Most of these are bad or neutral, but one is somewhat positive. That is the statement that petitioner wins by showing that “[t]he agency unreasonably delayed providing the contents of a record subject to disclosure in part or in whole.” Currently the CPRA says that agencies can’t delay access but it doesn’t explicitly create a cause of action for delay. Again, in my experience, judges’ deference makes attorneys reluctant to file such petitions. Maybe this would improve that situation.

That one potential improvement is not worth the destruction, though. If this bill passes into law look for already obstructionist agencies to ramp up their obstruction. Look for the already small number of lawyers willing to take CPRA cases on an affordable basis to decline sharply. Look for the already slow flow of records to decrease drastically.

Interestingly, the right of access to public records is written into the California Constitution at Article I Section 3, and in subpart (b)(2) it requires that “A statute, court rule, or other authority adopted after the effective date of this subdivision that limits the right of access shall be adopted with findings demonstrating the interest protected by the limitation and the need for protecting that interest.” Hueso’s bill contains some boilerplate language about this, but it doesn’t demonstrate anything, it just states it. The bill would clearly limit access, though, so maybe it would end up being unconstitutional.

And turn the page for a transcription of the legislative counsel’s summary and of the actual proposed changes. And then find your legislator and write in opposition to this crappy and dangerous bill.
Continue reading Senator Ben Hueso Introduced SB615 Yesterday — Would Gut California Public Records Act By Requiring Proof That Noncompliant Agencies Knowingly And Willfully Withheld Records — This Would Make It Extremely Difficult For Requesters To Recover Fees — Which Would Make It Extremely Difficult For Requesters To Hire A Lawyer — Which Would Decimate The Already Lousy Compliance Level

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How I Recorded Today’s Chinatown BID Meeting — And Got Screamed At By Criminal Ringleader And Big Poopy-Pants Whiny-Baby George Freaking Yu Cause I Wouldn’t Submit To His Weirdo Thuggish Demands — Then He Had His Weirdo Thuggish Security Guard Ban Me From The Far East Plaza Even Though I Didn’t Do Anything — Except Refuse To Bow To His Weirdo Thuggish Demands, That Is

Well, it’s always interesting to visit a new BID for the first time, and today’s journey out to Chinatown was certainly no exception. The BID meets in the Far East Plaza upstairs1 so up I went. They tried to get me to sign in, but I just ignored them because that’s illegal, innit?2 I did record the meeting, and you can watch the whole thing if you want here on YouTube and also here on Archive.Org if Google gives you the willies.3

There was a lot to write about at that meeting, but the most interesting thing4 was the fact that George Yu, just like that lady from the Arts District last month, decided he was going to confront me about recording his meeting, so he came over, just like she did, and stuck his face right in the camera, just like she did, and proceeded to embarrass himself in his anger and his shame, just like she did. Watch the whole frickin’ episode right here.

Now, a lot of other interesting stuff happened at this meeting, but I’m going to have to put off writing about it, because the very most interesting thing that happened today happened right after the meeting. As you’re probably aware, Howlin’ Rays does not actually define the the Far East Plaza, which also has some nice restaurants that are NOT overrun by zombie hipster hordes. And since the BID meeting was right at lunch time I thought I’d eat a banh mi and some pho before hopping the good old 45 southbound back to reality.

But after I ordered and before most of my food came,5 a security guard came busting into the restaurant and told me that the Far East Plaza was private property and that the owner didn’t want me there any more and that I would have to leave. Did I mention I recorded him too? Watch it here on YouTube or here on Archive.Org.6

I’ve been through a lot of crazy stuff when exercising my constitutional right to film BIDs,7 but this is right up there with the very craziest, which was the time I got screamed at for being possessed because I filmed meetings. Also, while George Yu’s argument makes some kind of sense theoretically, there are aspects to the situation that make it plausible that he can’t actually ban me from the property without some kind of reason. Turn the page for my amateur speculations on the matter!
Continue reading How I Recorded Today’s Chinatown BID Meeting — And Got Screamed At By Criminal Ringleader And Big Poopy-Pants Whiny-Baby George Freaking Yu Cause I Wouldn’t Submit To His Weirdo Thuggish Demands — Then He Had His Weirdo Thuggish Security Guard Ban Me From The Far East Plaza Even Though I Didn’t Do Anything — Except Refuse To Bow To His Weirdo Thuggish Demands, That Is

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