Tag Archives: National Lawyers Guild

Here Are Copies Of Many Of The Pleadings Filed With The California Supreme Court In The Monumentally Important California Public Records Act Case National Lawyers Guild V. City Of Hayward — It’s Extraordinarily Difficult To Get Copies Of Appellate Pleadings In California But I Found A Way To Do It — Which Is Also Explained Here If You’re Interested

The California Public Records Act generally mandates that every person has a right to take a look at any public record at no cost. Agencies are explicitly not allowed to charge requesters for the time it takes to search for records, organize them for inspection, or review and redact them for exempt information. The one major exception to this has to do with records stored in computers that require programming to extract information responsive to a request.1

For instance, in Los Angeles, the City Attorney maintains an SQL database of all its prosecutions. The database itself evidently contains too much data for it to be practicable for humans to review the whole thing for exemptions and produce it in its entirety. But the contents are inarguably public records, so to get access to them it’s necessary to run a query against the database. This must be written in SQL and the law allows the agency to charge the requester for the time it takes to write and run the query.

Although I do not particularly like this section of the law I can see the need for something like it. The CPRA does not in general require agencies to create new records in response to requests but in this case it has to or the public would be denied access to information in databases that were too big to review, among other records and it’s at least possible to argue that someone needs to pay for the construction of these new records. This process, by the way, is known as “extraction” in CPRA circles.

So in 2015 the National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Chapter asked the City of Hayward for access to some cop videos and the City said not only did they have to redact the videos but that video redaction required special software and thus it constituted extraction and could therefore be billed to the requester. The cost was in the thousands of dollars, which the NLG paid under protest and then filed a petition asking for a refund on the theory that the charge was illegal under the law because redaction is not extraction.

The NLG won in Superior Court, the City appealed the ruling and won in Appellate Court, and the case is now before the California Supreme Court. The case is now fully briefed and we’re just waiting for oral arguments to be scheduled. You can sign up for notifications at this link, but unlike many courts, it seems that the California Supreme Court does not publish copies of pleadings filed with it until after the Court rules on a case.

Which has been driving me absolutely crazy because this case is so important and reporters, even good ones,2 consistently get the facts wrong when writing about legal matters. There is no substitute for reading the primary sources. I’ve been reduced to writing begging emails to various lawyers pleading for PDFs. And occasionally they give them to me and I write about them.3

But on Thursday I made a huge breakthrough! I was downtown for various reasons and stopped in at the County Law Library to read cases on Westlaw and I learned that they collect appellate pleadings on their site, including ones from the California Supreme Court. I looked and they did in fact have PDFs of everything filed in this monumental case! And I could read it at the Law Library computer.

Now, generally Westlaw is very good about giving copies things to users. Like past published decisions are no problem, just click a button and put in your email address and it will send you a PDF of any published opinion. So I selected all these and hit the button and told it to email and …. got a damn error message saying that these PDFs were restricted and could only be printed on paper.

Which isn’t acceptable for any number of reasons, not least because there are hundreds of pages involved and it costs money to print on paper. This is not to mention the fact that it destroys the OCR and redoing the OCR invariably introduces errors. It’s horrible. But I fooled around some more and it turns out that when viewing the PDF on the library computer it’s possible to save a local copy.

Then, because the library is kind enough to provide access to a full-featured browser, it’s possible to upload the saved PDFs to a cloud service or something similar, and get copies that way. Or log into an email account and mail them to oneself as attachments So I did something like that, and got 18 new files, and published them all on Archive.Org for you right here! And also here is a list of the whole collection with links and brief descriptions.
Continue reading Here Are Copies Of Many Of The Pleadings Filed With The California Supreme Court In The Monumentally Important California Public Records Act Case National Lawyers Guild V. City Of Hayward — It’s Extraordinarily Difficult To Get Copies Of Appellate Pleadings In California But I Found A Way To Do It — Which Is Also Explained Here If You’re Interested

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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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Letters Of Support And Opposition To Senator Bob Wieckowski’s SB518 — Which Would Eliminate 998 Offers In California Public Records Act Cases — Set For Hearing Before Senate Judiciary Committee On April 23 — Which Is This Tuesday! — Predictably The Main Opposition Is From The California Downtown Association — Which Represents Bad BIDdies All Over The State — And From A Bunch Of Other Similarly Situated Groups

I wrote a couple of months ago about Senator Bob Wieckowski‘s SB 518, which would make a fairly technical albeit quite important improvement to the California Public Records Act. In short this bill would disallow the use of Code of Civil Procedure §998 in CPRA lawsuits. As I said, it’s a fairly technical matter, but it’s well-explained here on Wieckowski’s fact sheet:

The purpose of a §998 offer is to encourage settlement by providing a strong financial
disincentive to a party, whether it be a plaintiff or defendant, who fails to achieve a better result than that party could have achieved by accepting the opponent’s settlement offer. For example, if a defendant makes a §998 offer that is rejected and the
plaintiff fails to obtain a judgment that is more favorable than the offer amount, then the plaintiff is not entitled to post-offer costs and must pay the defendant’s post-offer costs.

But this kind of hardball negotiating tactic can have really negative public policy consequences in CPRA cases. Government agencies sometimes make 998 offers that would require requesters to settle for fewer than all the records they’re entitled to where refusing the offer puts the requester in jeopardy of having to pay significant costs.

As you probably know, though, there are an awful lot of government agencies who just really do not want to comply with the public records act. In my experience these include BIDs, Charter Schools, the City of Los Angeles, and various state agencies. Not all of these have actually made 998 offers to me, but certainly some of them have. And the problem is only going to get worse as the word spreads amongst the agencies.

That’s why it’s not surprising to find that the most significant opposition to Wieckowski’s bill comes from a coalition of lobbying groups representing BIDs, rural jurisdictions, and other small-scale public agencies, surprisingly led by our old friend Andrew Thomas of the Westwood Village BID. Their letter is absolutely full of lies, although I suppose it’s worth reading if you want to see what these people are paying their lobbyists to write.

The main point seems to be that they’re getting sued all the time because the CPRA currently makes it too easy to sue them and SB 518 would only make things worse. Obviously, though, and unmentioned by them in this letter, is the fact that if they would just comply with the law rather than spending many thousands of dollars learning how to evade it, they would never get sued at all. That, though, is clearly not the solution they’re looking for.

There is some significant support for the bill as well. Here’s a letter from the National Lawyers’ Guild Los Angeles, and another letter from Jeffer, Mangels, Butler, & Mitchell. Also worth reading, and there’s a transcription of the NLG-LA one after the break. The bill is coming before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, April 23. I’ll let you know what happens!
Continue reading Letters Of Support And Opposition To Senator Bob Wieckowski’s SB518 — Which Would Eliminate 998 Offers In California Public Records Act Cases — Set For Hearing Before Senate Judiciary Committee On April 23 — Which Is This Tuesday! — Predictably The Main Opposition Is From The California Downtown Association — Which Represents Bad BIDdies All Over The State — And From A Bunch Of Other Similarly Situated Groups

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Tentative Settlement Reached In Street Vending Lawsuit Against Fashion District BID And City Of Los Angeles

You can read up on the background in this 2015 LA times story and also in our multiple stories on the subject. Most of the paper filed in the case is available here.

The monumental lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles and the Fashion District BID for their abominable treatment of street vendors was set for trial in January. However, papers filed with the court yesterday announce that the plaintiffs have reached a settlement with the City and as soon as it’s approved, a process which can take many months for it to work its way through Committees and Council, they will drop the case against both the City and the BID. Hence they asked Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell to put the calendar on hold until the settlement is approved.

Today Virginia Phillips, Chief Judge of the local federal district, issued an order vacating the schedule in anticipation of this settlement. You can read the joint notice of pending settlement that inspired the order, and, as always, there’s a transcript of both documents after the break.
Continue reading Tentative Settlement Reached In Street Vending Lawsuit Against Fashion District BID And City Of Los Angeles

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Order Filed This Morning Certifies Chua V. City Of Los Angeles, Federal Civil Rights Case Arising Out Of 2014 Michael Brown Protests, As A Class Action With Some Minor Exceptions

California-centralSee this article from the LA Times and our previous posts on the subject for the background to this post. All of the filings can be found here.

Last July the plaintiffs in this monumental federal civil rights suit against the City of Los Angeles for the reprehensible behavior of the LAPD in 2014 with respect to protests arising out of the Michael Brown killing filed a motion to have the suit certified as a class action. In November, Judge Kronstadt announced that he was pretty much inclined to certify it but that he wanted to see some supplemental briefs. So that happened, and this morning he filed filed a comprehensive order certifying the case as a class action with only a couple of minor1 exceptions. He also granted the plaintiffs leave to amend their complaint in response to his order. Turn the page for links to a few other items that have been filed in the last few days.
Continue reading Order Filed This Morning Certifies Chua V. City Of Los Angeles, Federal Civil Rights Case Arising Out Of 2014 Michael Brown Protests, As A Class Action With Some Minor Exceptions

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Street Vending Lawsuit Trial Date Set For January 30, 2018, Fashion District BID Finally Sets Out Preliminary Position On Allegations

This kind of thing really has to stop soon.  This man was arrested and handcuffed in Hollywood and his ice cream set out to melt by the Andrews International BID Patrol, but the LAPD does the same and worse, as mostly likely does the Fashion District BID's rent-a-cops.
This kind of thing really has to stop soon. This man was arrested and handcuffed in Hollywood and his ice cream set out to melt by the Andrews International BID Patrol, but the LAPD does the same and worse, as mostly likely does the Fashion District BID’s rent-a-cops.

You can read up on the background in this 2015 LA times story and also in our multiple stories on the subject. Most of the paper filed in the case is available here.

A number of new documents have been filed in the National Lawyers’ Guild’s suit against the City of Los Angeles and the Fashion District business improvement district for their disgraceful treatment of street vendors. Here’s a list, followed by my usual uninformed commentary:

  • Joint Rule 26(f) report — This is a surprisingly interesting document. It’s evidently required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(f), which regulates pretrial discovery agreements. For our purposes, though, it also seems to require that all the parties lay out their views of the case. This is especially interesting with respect to the Fashion District, which, even though it did answer the complaint, did so in a completely vacuous manner. There’s some substance here, and I discuss it after the break.
  • Court Order re: Scheduling Conference — Here Judge O’Connell cancels a settlement conference that was to be held Monday, orders that the parties complete the dispute resolution process by December 4, 2017, and file a joint report on it within 7 days of its conclusion.
  • Court Order re: Alternative Dispute Resolution — This order declares that the Alternative Dispute Resolution will be handled by the Magistrate Judge assigned to the case.
  • Order for Civil Jury Trial With relevant dates — This is an order for a trial, to take place on January 30, 2018, and other relevant dates.

Continue reading Street Vending Lawsuit Trial Date Set For January 30, 2018, Fashion District BID Finally Sets Out Preliminary Position On Allegations

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Judge Kronstadt Tentatively Inclined To Grant Class Certification In Chua V. City of LA But Has Some Concerns. National Lawyers Guild Responds With Supplemental Brief As Ordered. NLG Is Willing To Talk But City of LA Uninterested In Settling At This Time.

Carol Sobel,  plaintiffs' attorney in Chua v. City of Los Angeles
Carol Sobel, plaintiffs’ attorney in Chua v. City of Los Angeles
In July of this year the plaintiffs in Chua v. City of Los Angeles, based on LAPD misconduct during 2014 protests concerning Michael Brown, filed a motion for certification as a class action suit. The City of Los Angeles did not oppose the motion. But, of course, even if the parties to a suit agree, these things are still up to the Judge. A hearing on the motion was held on November 7, and Judge Kronstadt stated his “tentative views that [he] is inclined to grant in part Plaintiffs’ Motion for Class Certification. However, evidently he still had some questions about his decision, because he instructed the plaintiffs to supplement their motion for class certification with some additional briefs, which were due and filed last Monday, the 14th of November. They are linked to directly below, and you can find some quotations and uninformed discussion after the break.

Interestingly, those minutes also note that the City isn’t presently interested in settling matters:

The Court confers with counsel regarding settlement. Plaintiffs are open to participating in a settlement conference now while defense counsel believes it is premature at this time.

Continue reading Judge Kronstadt Tentatively Inclined To Grant Class Certification In Chua V. City of LA But Has Some Concerns. National Lawyers Guild Responds With Supplemental Brief As Ordered. NLG Is Willing To Talk But City of LA Uninterested In Settling At This Time.

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Central Avenue Historic BID May Provide Insight Into The Process By Which BIDs Evolved From Whatever They Were Originally Conceived To Be Into Weaponized Shock Troops Of The Zillionaire Real-Estate Power Elite

Sherri Franklin of the Urban Design Center, consultant to the Central Avenue Historic BID, speaks at the November 2, 2016 meeting of the Board of Directors.
Sherri Franklin of the Urban Design Center, consultant to the Central Avenue Historic BID, speaks at the November 2, 2016 meeting of the Board of Directors. I apologize for the crappy image quality. I didn’t plan to film.
After I spent some time looking into the Central Avenue Historic BID in the context of potential political goals for the post-approval Venice Beach BID, I thought it would be interesting to learn more about this newborn BID.1 The meetings are held at CD9’s district office at 4301 S. Central,2 so on a very pleasant evening last Thursday, I took the 210 out of Hollywood to MLK and Crenshaw, where I boarded the 705 to Central and Vernon from whence a couple blocks North on Central to watch the Board of Directors conduct their business.3 The meeting was scheduled to start at 5:30, but that evidently included some preliminaries, because when I got there at about 10 to 64 they hadn’t started yet.

Anyway, take a look at the agenda. You can see that they’re talking about the kind of things that one would expect BIDs to talk about from, e.g., reading the Wikipedia page on BIDs,5 like branding and marketing, cleaning the streets, having Halloween events, and so on. And watch this short clip of the meeting.6 That’s Sherri Franklin of the Urban Design Center, the BID consultant, who also seems to be functioning as executive director, talking about some kind of partnership the BID’s working on with Hollywood Community Housing Corporation involving affordable housing at the corner of Central and Jefferson.7

Allan Muhammad, security director for the Central Avenue Historic District BID.
Allan Muhammad, security director for the Central Avenue Historic District BID.
And then you can watch here as BID security director Allan Muhammad introduces his employees, and then they proceed to hand out sample Halloween bags to everyone in the room. They didn’t once discuss custodial arrests, handcuffs, social engineering, mass relocations, self-aggrandizing 5150 holds, or any of the other hard-edged tactics of which the City’s older and ever so much more dangerous BIDs are so enamored. And even though I only got 15 minutes on tape of the 90 minutes I was there8 they didn’t really have anything objectionable to say even during the parts of the meeting I didn’t record. They talked about parking, they talked about their phone bills, they talked about how it was hard for the BID to patronize local businesses because they mostly only accepted cash.9

Could this be what a BID looks like as BIDs were intended to look? Well, the very question is based on a false assumption. And there were foreshadowings of bad news to come. And on the way home, and for the last few days, it’s got me thinking about what BIDs were meant to be,10how BIDs11 evolve under selective pressure, and how it’s probably inevitable that this BID is going to end up like the worst of the Downtown BIDs, the worst of the Hollywood BIDs. The short version is that BIDs probably started out as helpful tools, but as a wise woman once said, “every tool is a weapon if you hold it right.” So turn the page if you’re still interested…
Continue reading Central Avenue Historic BID May Provide Insight Into The Process By Which BIDs Evolved From Whatever They Were Originally Conceived To Be Into Weaponized Shock Troops Of The Zillionaire Real-Estate Power Elite

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Stop LAPD Spying CPRA Case Trial Setting Conference Continued Until April 7, 2016

slsc.logoPlaintiff Stop LAPD Spying Coalition and respondent City of Los Angeles agreed in a stipulation filed with LA County Superior Court on March 3, 2016, to continue the trial setting conference, originally scheduled for March 7, 2016, until April 7, 2016. The reasons given in the order (with attendant whereases) include:

WHEREAS, after filing of the complaint, the Respondent has produced two sets of responsive documents to Petitioners and continues to search for responsive documents;

WHEREAS, the parties are engaged in ongoing informal discussions about further production…

It’s my impression that if filing a suit encourages the respondent to cough up the goodies then they’re still on the hook for the court costs and attorney’s fees. So it’s fitting and proper that the City is producing documents and talking to the plaintiffs, but they would have saved everyone a lot of time and trouble but just following the law in the first place.

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City of Los Angeles Files Answer to Stop LAPD Spying Coalition Public Records Act Petition: Admits Guilt, Expects Reward

Los Angeles Deputy City Attorney Julie Raffish.
Why is the City of LA fighting this lawsuit? What a freaking waste of time and money. On January 26, 2016, the City of Los Angeles filed its answer to the petition filed by Colleen Flynn and Carol Sobel on behalf of the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition and the National Lawyers Guild Los Angeles seeking a writ of mandate ordering the LAPD to stop messing about and turn over the goddamned goodies. (You can find a collection of filings from this suit here). Paragraphs 1 through 9 of the initial complaint are background, and Julie Raffish, who wrote the answer, gets to indulge her evident taste for dark sarcasm in her responses, e.g. at paragraph 4 denying that the NLG is a non-profit legal association.

She also displays a wry, deadpan humor. For instance, in paragraph 3 the plaintiffs assert that the Coalition to Stop LAPD Spying “empowers its members to work collectively against police repression and to dismantle domestic spying operations” and that therefore the Coalition has an interest in the LAPD’s adhering to the Public Records Act. Julie Raffish has the City admitting that the Coalition is interested, but claiming that, as to the rest of the allegations they “lack sufficient information and knowledge to form a belief as to the truth…” of, I guess, whether there are “police repression” and “domestic spying operations” to be dismantled and worked collectively against. Dry as a bone, is Julie Raffish, and isn’t lawyerly humor fun! But the public records stuff is where it gets really interesting:
Continue reading City of Los Angeles Files Answer to Stop LAPD Spying Coalition Public Records Act Petition: Admits Guilt, Expects Reward

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