The City of Los Angeles is notorious for ignoring its duties under the California Public Records Act. Among City agencies, the LAPD is probably the worst at responding to requests in a timely, comprehensive manner. One of the worst aspects of CPRA is that filing a lawsuit1 is the only recourse if an agency refuses to comply. This is the strategy being pursued by the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition.2
So anyway, my own CPRA experiences with LAPD confirm this general impression. For instance, on February 10, 2015, I sent them this:
I’d like to request a list of all active stay-away orders for the Hollywood Entertainment District or maybe you could suggest documents I could request that would allow me to assemble such a list myself? I’m interested in how many there are and what crimes were committed by the people subject to them.
I won’t bother you with a detailed timeline of all my ignored follow-up inquiries and their occasional non-responsive answers to them, but in more than 20 months after my making this request they still had supplied no records in response.3
Well, as you may be aware, I’m presently working through a theory on whether Los Angeles Municipal Ethics laws, specifically LAMC 49.5.5(A), can be used to force the City to comply with CPRA without having to go to court. A description of this project can be found here. Now, LAMC 49.5.5(A) states:
City officials, agency employees, appointees awaiting confirmation by the City Council, and candidates for elected City office shall not misuse or attempt to misuse their positions or prospective positions to create or attempt to create a private advantage or disadvantage, financial or otherwise, for any person.
Last month (on May 5) Judge James Chalfant, who’s presiding over the CPRA lawsuit filed by the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition to address the LAPD’s utterly lawless noncompliance with the California Public Records Act, entered an order setting the hearing date to Tuesday, November 22, 2016 at 1:30 p.m. This will be in Chalfant’s courtroom, which is Department 85 (room 834) in the Stanley Mosk Courthouse at 111 North Hill Street. I’m sorry for the late notice, but the LA County Superior Courts don’t offer an RSS feed or any other way to be notified of new filings.
Plaintiff 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.
This morning I went to the LAPD Discovery Section at 201 N. Los Angeles Street to inspect the latest batch of emails produced in response to a public records act request I made in January 2015. None of the emails themselves were especially interesting,1 but the procedure itself was interesting. A couple of weeks ago, the incomparably helpful CD13 staffie Dan Halden, after checking with the City Attorney, told me that it was indeed allowed to bring one’s own scanner to a document inspection session. This works out to about 1,000 pages (at 10¢ per page) for a cheap portable scanner, although one with a decent page rate (16 ppm) runs about $200. It seemed worth it, so I brought mine to the LAPD and everything went swimmingly! This is crucial because the City insists2 on printing out emails for inspection and it’s easy to get 2,000 or more pages from a simple request, most of which is junk but it’s hard to tell in advance. Also, I mentioned to Debra Green, who’s handling one of my requests to the LAPD, that no one had answered my other pending ones. She invited me to forward them to her and she’d check into them for me. I did so, and so did she. According to Ms. Green, one of them at least had been assigned to an analyst and was being handled, even though I’d received no response. This may lend some plausibility to the City’s claim in their response to the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition’s Public Records Act lawsuit that, even though they didn’t respond to the requests in question, they nevertheless did look for the records.3 In any case, I’ll update the Practical Guide to CPRA Requests in LA to reflect the possibility of using a scanner. Happy trails, compadres! Continue reading Using Your Own Scanner During “Inspection” of Public Records is Allowed by City of Los Angeles, Other Details About LAPD Public Records→
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→
There’s a (relatively) new development in the Stop LAPD Spying v. City of L.A. Public Records Act case. Unfortunately the L.A. County Superior Court doesn’t seem to have an automated filing notification system like the Federal District Courts do, which is why I missed (until now) this interesting motion that the City of L.A. filed on January 12, 2016. It is a Motion for an Order Establishing Peremptory Challenge to Judicial Officer as well as a Declaration of Julie Raffish. Julie Raffish is the Deputy City Attorney that’s defending the case for L.A. In this declaration she claims that:
Joanne O’Donnell, the judge before whom the trial or hearing in this action is pending or to whom it has been assigned, is prejudiced against the Respondent [City of Los Angeles] or its attorney or the interest of the Respondent or its attorney, so that the declarant [Julie Raffish] believes that she cannot have a fair and impartial trial or hearing before the judge.
On December 22, 2015, the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition and the hyperactive-in-a-good-way National Lawyers Guild LA filed suit in LA Superior Court against the City of Los Angeles because of egregious violations of the California Public Records Act. According to Pete White of the LA Community Action Network, the LAPD needs to “…know they need to—at a minimum—follow the laws…they tell us we need to follow.” I got copies of everything that’s been filed to date and put it all in a directory here. There’s not so much, but the initial complaint is a monster, weighing in at 180 pages. Most of that is exhibits, including a lengthy U.S. Senate report on Homeland Security funding of and involvement in domestic police spying operations and a copy of a “Special Order” authorizing an ongoing LAPD spying program and a bunch of other documents. The LAPD stuff starts on page 125 of the PDF. I’ll separate and post the various documents individually when I have time. Anyway, the petition has an excellent introduction outlining the public’s interest in the records that the group is seeking and a very tidy summary of what I know from personal experience is the maddening stubborn inactivity of the LAPD in the face of the transcendently clear mandate of the CPRA to respond to requests within 10 days. My only quibble is that I wish they’d also mentioned the LAPD’s absolute and illegal refusal to provide copies of records that they hold in electronic formats, e.g. email, in those electronic formats rather than printing them out on paper and redacting them with a marker. But they know the law and its ways better than I, so I’ll hush up about it. Continue reading Stop LAPD Spying Coalition and National Lawyers Guild LA File Suit Against City of LA Over Egregious LAPD CPRA Violations–Court Papers Available Here→