Today, the California Supreme Court affirmed the public’s right to access government billing records with private law firms, overturning a previous appeals court ruling in a California Public Records Act (CPRA) case brought against Los Angeles County.
L.A. County should now release the invoices for all closed cases, so that the public can learn how much taxpayer money is going to private lawyers to defend the county and its employees, including the many cases against the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department for brutality against inmates in the county jails.
In 2013, the ACLU Foundation of Southern California … and … Eric Preven … sued the county demanding that it and the Office of County Counsel release invoices detailing the amounts of money billed by private law firms in lawsuits filed against the sheriff’s department and its personnel. The lawsuit, ACLU/Preven v. Los Angeles County, came after county counsel denied several CPRA requests for the documents that list the amounts billed by private attorneys, which are paid by county taxpayers.In the opinion the court rejected the county’s argument that attorney-client privilege extends to government invoices with private legal counsel in closed cases, writing that “contents of an invoice are privileged only if they either communicate information for the purpose of consultation or risk exposing information.”
And turn the page to download bunches of pleadings in the case, including the Supreme Court opinion.
- County’s petition to Appellate Court — asking them to overturn the Superior Court’s decision ordering the release of the records sought.
- Association of Southern California Defense Counsels Amicus brief — in support of County’s petition to Appellate Court seeking to halt disclosure of records.
- County’s reply brief in support of its petition — this is the County’s reply to the ACLU reply to the County’s petition. Unfortunately I don’t have a copy of the ACLU reply that this is a response to.
- Court of Appeal opinion — overturning Superior Court mandate to release records. Thus as of April 2015 attorney billing invoices were exempt from disclosure under CPRA.
- Los Angeles County Bar Association Amicus letter — asking the Supreme Court to depublish or review the Court of Appeals opinion. They are worried that making all billing invoices privileged will interfere with lawyers’ fee awards. This is in interesting contrast to the defense attorneys, who want to keep the invoices secret.
- ACLU/Preven opening brief before California Supreme Court — this is really worth reading.
- Coalition of Anaheim Taxpayers Amicus brief — in support of ACLU/Preven in favor of release of records.
- California State Association of Counties Amicus brief — in support of County of Los Angeles opposing release of records.
- Supreme Court opinion — ordering release of records. If you only read one of these items, read this one.
Image of Eric Preven is a public record and therefore in the public domain.