Quick summary! In August 2018 I was forced by the unhinged intransigence of Blair Besten, half-pint Norma Desmond of the Historic Core BID, to file a petition seeking to enforce my rights under the California Public Records Act. So the usual on-and-freaking-on process of CPRA litigation happened and after a few archetypally zany moments, like La Besten denying under oath that those things her BID sends out via MailChimp are, you know, emails, everybody filed their briefs in July and then today, Tuesday, November 5, we finally had the damn trial.
And the judge, James Chalfant, did as judges will do, and issued a tentative ruling the day before, and you can read it right here.1 And then this afternoon at the trial, after some characteristically futile yammering by counsel for respondent, the notoriously feckless Jeffrey Charles Briggs, the judge adopted his tentative ruling, handing us, that is me and my lawyer, the incomparable Colleen Flynn, a major victory. In particular, said the judge, those things that MailChimp sends are indeed emails and the BID is ordered to search for them and hand them over.
And they’re also ordered to search for some other emails that they didn’t hand over before. And Briggs tried and failed in oral argument to sway the judge. He went so far as to state out loud, right there in open court, that his client shouldn’t have to search for and produce any of the MailChimp material because we were going to file a fee motion and that would be bad for his client. The judge actually reprimanded him for that one! As if considerations of who has to pay what could be allowed to sully the search for truth that is a civil trial!2
I mean, he’s right, we will be filing a fee motion unless he comes to his senses for once and settles up for the fees his client will have to pay. Note that the CPRA has mandatory fee shifting. That is, the court is required to award fees to the prevailing requester, and a requester prevails when the suit induces the respondent to hand over some records.3 Anyway, like I said, read the ruling and marvel. Hopefully this big loss for BIDlandia will bring some of the others to their damn senses and they’ll just start handing over records like they’re required to. But if their past behavior is any kind of indication it probably won’t. Stay tuned for news of the dreaded but inevitable fee motion!
- There are a few typos in this copy, corrected by the court this morning before the trial, but they’re not substantial and I don’t have a copy of that corrected version.
- I’m actually not being sarcastic here. The question of who’s right under the law is very properly kept separate from the question of what the consequences of someone being right might be to the party in the wrong. First decide the question of who’s right, then decide the question of who pays fees.
- That already happened almost a year ago in this case, so not sure why we were still fighting it out, but maybe Jeffrey Charles doesn’t get this subtlety?