Category Archives: Lawsuits

On May 4, 2021 The Los Angeles Sunshine Coalition Filed A California Public Records Act Petition — Against The City Of Los Angeles — Over Violations By The Los Angeles Police Department — Involving Improper Redactions And Refusal To Release Other Required Records — Get A Copy Of The Petition Here!

This post is about a petition filed by the Los Angeles Sunshine Coalition to enforce compliance with the California Public Records Act by the City of Los Angeles. If you want to read the petition but not the nonsense you can get a copy right here.

On Tuesday, May 4, 2021 the Los Angeles Sunshine Coalition, represented by the incomparable Anna von Herrmann, filed a writ petition against the City of Los Angeles seeking to enforce compliance with the California Public Records Act. There are two basic issues at stake.
Continue reading On May 4, 2021 The Los Angeles Sunshine Coalition Filed A California Public Records Act Petition — Against The City Of Los Angeles — Over Violations By The Los Angeles Police Department — Involving Improper Redactions And Refusal To Release Other Required Records — Get A Copy Of The Petition Here!

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In 2016 An LAPD Police Dog Attacked Heller Castillo — When He Opened His Front Door Because He Thought The Police Wanted Him To — Although He Was Not A Suspect In Any Way — The Law Imposes Strict Liability For Non-Suspect Police Dog Attacks — A Top Secret Confidential Report Obtained By MK.Org Reveals That In January 2020 Deputy City Attorney Lisa Lee Recommended A $75K Settlement Offer Because “a jury would almost certainly find in favor of the Plaintiff” — Which Is A Good Reason To Settle — But Lee Thought The Plaintiff Would Refuse — He Was Asking For $800K And His Lawyers Surely Know About Los Angeles Juries — However Ending The Case Was Not Lee’s Purpose — Which Is Apparent Since She Recommended A So-Called 998 Offer — Which Is An Aggressive Litigation Tactic — That Is Absolutely Not Reasonable For Cities To Use Against Citizens — Cities Ought To Seek Justice — Not Petty Revenge — The Case Is Ongoing By The Way — Trial Setting Conference In April 2021

In April 2016 LAPD was out hunting suspects with police dogs. One of the dogs scratched on the door of Heller Castillo’s house. He thought the police wanted him to open the door and did so, at which time he was attacked by one of their dogs. Castillo filed a suit. In January 2020 he City Attorney’s office recommended in January 2020 that City Council authorize an aggressive settlement offer of $75K that Lisa Lee, the Deputy handling the case, thought wouldn’t be accepted but wanted to make anyway for strategic reasons, even though she knew the City was at fault and was convinced they’d lose badly if the case went to a jury. Here’s a copy of the confidential report that Lee sent to City Council in January 2020 in advance of the closed session called to discuss the issue.

According to the Los Angeles City Charter the City Attorney represents the City of Los Angeles in lawsuits.1 Which means that from time to time the City Attorney has to consult with the City Council to ask for direction from their client, the City of Los Angeles.2 On such occasions the Brown Act allows3 such meetings to take place in secret, which they always do.

But prior to such meetings the City Attorney’s office sends a confidential report to the City Council so that they can be ready to discuss. These reports are generally exempt from release4 under the California Public Records Act, but from time to time I manage to lay my hands on a copy of one. This last happened with the employment practices case brought by LAPD officer Ray Garvin against the City of Los Angeles.

And today I have another such confidential report for you. This is from January 2020 and has to do with the case Castillo v. City of LA,5 in which a police dog bit plaintiff Heller Castillo during an LAPD operation in which he was in no way a suspect. Lisa W. Lee, the Deputy City Attorney handling the case, recommends in this report to City Council that she be allowed to make a 998 offer of $75K to settle, even though, as Lee says:

it is anticipated that Plaintiff will not accept an offer of $75,000, [but] we believe that we should make the offer as a tool to encourage settlement.

Lee doesn’t think Castillo would accept $75K because he is asking for $800K, because the state of California imposes strict liability for police dogs biting non-suspects, and the facts are horrific, so that a jury is unlikely to find in the City’s favor:
Continue reading In 2016 An LAPD Police Dog Attacked Heller Castillo — When He Opened His Front Door Because He Thought The Police Wanted Him To — Although He Was Not A Suspect In Any Way — The Law Imposes Strict Liability For Non-Suspect Police Dog Attacks — A Top Secret Confidential Report Obtained By MK.Org Reveals That In January 2020 Deputy City Attorney Lisa Lee Recommended A $75K Settlement Offer Because “a jury would almost certainly find in favor of the Plaintiff” — Which Is A Good Reason To Settle — But Lee Thought The Plaintiff Would Refuse — He Was Asking For $800K And His Lawyers Surely Know About Los Angeles Juries — However Ending The Case Was Not Lee’s Purpose — Which Is Apparent Since She Recommended A So-Called 998 Offer — Which Is An Aggressive Litigation Tactic — That Is Absolutely Not Reasonable For Cities To Use Against Citizens — Cities Ought To Seek Justice — Not Petty Revenge — The Case Is Ongoing By The Way — Trial Setting Conference In April 2021

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Remember How I Sued The Highland Park BID And The Lincoln Heights BID In January 2020 Over Their Failures To Produce Public Records? — They Were About To Settle The Case But Then They Flipped Out — Fired Their Sane Lawyers — And Hired Carol Humiston And Her Weirdo Henchie Julie Bachert To Fight The Case! — And My Lawyer — Colleen Flynn — Fought Off Their Aggressively Unhinged Tactics — And Taught Them A Lesson They Shouldn’t Forget But They Probably Will — And They Came Crawling Back Begging To Settle! — Which We Did Yesterday And They’re Paying Flynn And Matthew Strugar — Who Also Helped — Thirty Thousand Dollars In Fees — And Assorted Costs — And They Agreed To Produce Emails On A Schedule — So More News About These Infernal BIDs Quite Soon!

Background: This post follows up on a post from last year, and here’s some useful background from there:

It’s been a while since I’ve written about our old friends at the Highland Park BID but that’s certainly not because I lost interest in them! You’ll recall that in early 2018 they released a really rich set of emails in response to some requests made under the California Public Records Act. These records revealed, among other things, the BID’s complicity in the ongoing hurricane-force gentrification of Highland Park, using tactics like mural erasure and harassment of street vendors. The emails also showed the BID’s creepy Facebook stalking of local antigentrification activists, coordinated with weirdo CD1 staffer Bill Cody.

The post is about my lawsuit against these BIDs. You can read most of the pleadings filed here on Archive.Org as well.

Remember last January? Before all this pandemic insurrection nonsense? Anyway, that’s when I filed a suit against both the Highland Park Business Improvement District and the Lincoln Heights BID1 over their failures to comply with the California Public Records Act. I haven’t written much on it because at first it looked like it was going to settle quickly. The BIDs agreed to produce the records and everything was fine.

Then they fired their lawyers and hired Carol “World’s angriest CPRA lawyer” Humiston’s firm, Bradley & Gmelich, to fight the petition instead. Humiston, of course, has it in for me and is even willing to break the law and the rules of the California State Bar to further her obsessive campaign. She apparently actually believes that the only reason I request records from BIDs is to fuck with them and run up their lawyer bills, and she’s determined to prove this in court.

So these new lawyers, apparently more determined to get at me than to help their clients, aggressively tried to depose me, I guess to get me to admit to my evil anti-BID plans. There’s nothing that my evidence can add to a CPRA case, though. The law specifically states that the requester’s purpose is irrelevant.2 and my lawyer, the incomparable Colleen Flynn, filed a motion for a protective order to stave them off.
Continue reading Remember How I Sued The Highland Park BID And The Lincoln Heights BID In January 2020 Over Their Failures To Produce Public Records? — They Were About To Settle The Case But Then They Flipped Out — Fired Their Sane Lawyers — And Hired Carol Humiston And Her Weirdo Henchie Julie Bachert To Fight The Case! — And My Lawyer — Colleen Flynn — Fought Off Their Aggressively Unhinged Tactics — And Taught Them A Lesson They Shouldn’t Forget But They Probably Will — And They Came Crawling Back Begging To Settle! — Which We Did Yesterday And They’re Paying Flynn And Matthew Strugar — Who Also Helped — Thirty Thousand Dollars In Fees — And Assorted Costs — And They Agreed To Produce Emails On A Schedule — So More News About These Infernal BIDs Quite Soon!

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The City of Los Angeles Continues To Produce Emails As Non-Text-Searchable Super Low Quality PDFs Rather Than MBOX Or EML Files — But The California Public Records Act Requires Them To Produce In Any Format They Use To Make Copies For Their Own Use — Which Includes MBOXes — We Are Finally Litigating This Issue — Hearing On November 11, 2020 — Read The Trial Brief Here — And A Declaration From Computer Pioneer Martin Haeberli — Explaining Why The City’s Reasons For Not Producing MBOXes Aren’t Reality-Based

This is what the City of Los Angeles does to image files when it converts emails to PDFs. It’s obviously not an exact copy, the provision of which is required by law. This is a completely faithful copy of an image file the City of LA produced in response to a CPRA request.
Maybe you remember that back in December 2019 I filed yet another CPRA suit against the City of Los Angeles. Here I was after a varied bunch of emails from the City’s Information Technology Agency. As usual, the City started handing over records almost immediately, which counts as a concession that they were wrong in denying my original requests.1

Also as usual they produced emails and their attachments as huge, unwieldy, non-text-searchable PDFs with highly degraded quality even though I asked them for MBOX files and the law requires them to produce MBOX files.2 They also produced attachments this way. You can see from the image what this process does to image files3 but imagine how incredibly useless it makes a spreadsheet! The CPRA’s requirement, found at §6253.9, is clear:

6253.9. (a) Unless otherwise prohibited by law, any agency that has information that constitutes an identifiable public record not exempt from disclosure pursuant to this chapter that is in an electronic format shall make that information available in an electronic format when requested by any person and, when applicable, shall comply with the following:

(1) The agency shall make the information available in any electronic format in which it holds the information.

(2) Each agency shall provide a copy of an electronic record in the format requested if the requested format is one that has been used by the agency to create copies for its own use or for provision to other agencies. The cost of duplication shall be limited to the direct cost of producing a copy of a record in an electronic format.

They refuse to do it, though, as they have been refusing since at least 2014. They change their reasons all the time, often in response to my pointing out that they’re lying about their capabilities. These days they’re not denying that they can produce MBOX files because everyone knows by now that they can do it even they used to say explicitly that it was impossible.4 Their current argument, also a lie, is that it’s impossible to redact MBOXes, so they can only produce as PDFs, which they can redact.

But this time we’re not willing to settle with them! We’re about to litigate this file format issue! The hearing is on November 11 at 1:30 before James Chalfant. Here’s the trial brief. There’s also a declaration from Internet and Apple Computer pioneer Martin Haeberli explaining the reasons why producing emails as MBOX files is far superior to PDFs and also explaining two perfectly workable ways to redact them in this form.5 Read on for excerpts from the brief and stay tuned for news!
Continue reading The City of Los Angeles Continues To Produce Emails As Non-Text-Searchable Super Low Quality PDFs Rather Than MBOX Or EML Files — But The California Public Records Act Requires Them To Produce In Any Format They Use To Make Copies For Their Own Use — Which Includes MBOXes — We Are Finally Litigating This Issue — Hearing On November 11, 2020 — Read The Trial Brief Here — And A Declaration From Computer Pioneer Martin Haeberli — Explaining Why The City’s Reasons For Not Producing MBOXes Aren’t Reality-Based

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I Have Been Forced Yet Again To File A Petition Against The City Of Los Angeles To Enforce The California Public Records Act — The Bureau Of Street Services Refuses To Release Emails About Those Illegal Anti-Homeless Planters — Which I Have Been Waiting On For Well Over A Year

Starting in 2018 gangs of astonishingly unhinged and utterly psychopathic housedwellers and some owners of commercial property began installing anti-homeless planters illegally on the streets of Los Angeles, aided, abetted, and assisted in their outlawry by City Council offices and LAPD officers. By April 2019 I had learned that not only were the planters illegal but that the City requires permits for placing structures or large objects on public sidewalks, none of which had been issued for these planters. So, via the California Public Records Act, I began asking for records.

In particular I asked for emails between BSS investigators and various CD11 staff. Later I also asked for copies of all citations issued by BSS from January 1, 2016 on for unpermitted planters and other structures placed on sidewalks. And after the usual months-long fruitless exchange of emails between me and BSS investigator Temo Llanes, filled with lies, errors, deceptions, and broken promises, the City of LA stopped responding to me at all. Hence the suit. Which you can get a copy of here if you are interested and there’s a transcription below. Stay, of course, tuned for more info!
Continue reading I Have Been Forced Yet Again To File A Petition Against The City Of Los Angeles To Enforce The California Public Records Act — The Bureau Of Street Services Refuses To Release Emails About Those Illegal Anti-Homeless Planters — Which I Have Been Waiting On For Well Over A Year

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Historic Core BID Slammed With $40K In Costs And Fees As A Result Of My California Public Records Act Request — Defended By Hollywood Superlawyer Jeffrey Charles Briggs — Who Has Not Won A Single One Of These Cases For His BIDdie Clients — His Whole Argument Here — And In The Rest Of The BID CPRA Cases He’s Defended — Is That I Should Lose Because My Entire Motive For Requesting Records Is To Trick BIDs Into Violating The CPRA — Then Sue Them Repeatedly — And Eventually Drive BIDs Out Of Business — This Is Provably False — And Patently Idiotic — And Explicitly Irrelevant Anyway — But Briggs Keeps Screeching About It — At Some Point I’m Expecting The BIDs To Realize That It’s Cheaper — And Easier — And Smarter — To Just Follow The Damn Law — But It Keeps Not Happening

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 on November 5, 2019 we finally had the damn trial and the BID lost big freaking time!

And when a local agency such as a BID loses a CPRA case the law is very clear. The judge must award costs and fees to the requester.1 It doesn’t happen automatically, though. The prevailing requester has to file a fee motion and if the parties can’t agree on it there’s a hearing. So we filed the motion, and by “we” I mean my attorney, the incomparable Colleen Flynn, and here’s a copy of the fee motion. The BID flipped out and you can read their reply to the fee motion and our reply to their reply if reading a flipout is interesting to you.

We were supposed to have a hearing in May, but of course that didn’t happen. However, the judge did issue a tentative ruling, of which there is a transcription below, and awarded us $39,720 in fees and $1,099.25 in costs. This may seem high, but Chalfant cut Flynn’s hourly rate from $740 to $400 based on his unarticulated evaluation of the difficulty of the case and the level of expertise involved, which apparently judges mostly just have the discretion to do.
Continue reading Historic Core BID Slammed With $40K In Costs And Fees As A Result Of My California Public Records Act Request — Defended By Hollywood Superlawyer Jeffrey Charles Briggs — Who Has Not Won A Single One Of These Cases For His BIDdie Clients — His Whole Argument Here — And In The Rest Of The BID CPRA Cases He’s Defended — Is That I Should Lose Because My Entire Motive For Requesting Records Is To Trick BIDs Into Violating The CPRA — Then Sue Them Repeatedly — And Eventually Drive BIDs Out Of Business — This Is Provably False — And Patently Idiotic — And Explicitly Irrelevant Anyway — But Briggs Keeps Screeching About It — At Some Point I’m Expecting The BIDs To Realize That It’s Cheaper — And Easier — And Smarter — To Just Follow The Damn Law — But It Keeps Not Happening

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Two Of My Public Records Act Lawsuits Against Charter Schools Settled In April 2020 — ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ PUC Charter Schools — Between Them They Paid More Than $11K — Which Was Supposed To Be Spent On Educating Children — But Which These Privatizing Pirate Academies Wasted Due To Their Appalling And Antisocial Arrogance — Here’s Some Background And Copies Of The Settlement Agreements!

As you probably know I’ve been investigating LAUSD charter schools using the California Public Records Act since January 2019. I was moved to this work1 by the monumental UTLA strike and especially the union’s focus on charter co-location.

I obtained some striking early results including an incredibly consequential release of emails from Green Dot Charter Schools, some of the fruits of which got wide and fairly devastating coverage in the media, including the Los Angeles Times, and Capital and Main, and Diane Ravitch’s blog, and elsewhere.

But this kind of success breeds resistance, so a lot of charters lawyered up and stopped producing records in response to my requests, or even stopped producing without the benefit of a lawyer’s advice.2 The only option left in such a situation is to start filing lawsuits, and that’s just what I’ve been forced to do.

In January 2020, for instance, I filed two.3 One ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ and the other against white savior charter conspiracy PUC Charter Schools, in some vague sense co-founded by former LAUSD board member and convicted felon Ref Rodriguez.
Continue reading Two Of My Public Records Act Lawsuits Against Charter Schools Settled In April 2020 — ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ PUC Charter Schools — Between Them They Paid More Than $11K — Which Was Supposed To Be Spent On Educating Children — But Which These Privatizing Pirate Academies Wasted Due To Their Appalling And Antisocial Arrogance — Here’s Some Background And Copies Of The Settlement Agreements!

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George Yu Fails To Appear At His Last And Final Contempt Hearing — Judge Mitchell Beckloff Orders Yu Seized — And Detained — And Chained — And Hauled Bodily Into Court — To Explain In Person Why He Has Been Ignoring The Judge’s Order To Hand Over The Damn Records — And Also He’s Ordered To Pay Our Lawyers An Additional $21K In Legal Fees — Looks To Me Like Now He’s Pushed His Luck Too Far — I Am Guessing That Gil Cedillo Will Have To Withdraw His Support At Some Point — Beginning To Look Very Much Like Yu’s Days Are Numbered


UPDATE: Today, February 7, 2020 Judge Beckloff changed his mind about the bench warrant for technical reasons that I don’t understand. Not sure what’s going to happen next and even though it remains quite likely that George Yu will be hauled off in chains in the near future, it won’t be because of the warrant that was issued on Wednesday. Here’s a copy of today’s order.

In 2018 Katherine McNenny and I sued the Chinatown Business Improvement District over their failure to comply with the California Public Records Act. And for the last 18 months neither BID director George Yu nor anyone else from the BID has appeared in court at all. In due course they lost, Judge Mitchell Beckloff issued an order to them to hand over the records, and they ignored that as well. Late last year we moved to have Yu held in contempt for his failure to obey the order, and the judge issued an order for Yu’s arrest and suspended it pending a hearing at which he ordered Yu to appear in person and explain why he shouldn’t be held in contempt.

That hearing was held this morning. Perhaps predictably, Yu didn’t show up today either, and the judge released the arrest warrant.1 Apparently this isn’t the kind of warrant where the cops go out and hunt down the offender, but if he’s pulled over or a cop has some other reason to enter his name into a computer, this will come up and he’ll be arrested and hauled before the judge. The Chinatown BID is in CD1, Gil Cedillo’s little kingdom, and as do all BIDdies with their Councilmembers, Yu has hitherto enjoyed Cedillo’s unconditional love. But having the guy arrested and hauled by force before a judge to explain why he refuses to obey the law may, just may, not saying for sure, erode that affection, that tolerance, just a bit. We can hope!
Continue reading George Yu Fails To Appear At His Last And Final Contempt Hearing — Judge Mitchell Beckloff Orders Yu Seized — And Detained — And Chained — And Hauled Bodily Into Court — To Explain In Person Why He Has Been Ignoring The Judge’s Order To Hand Over The Damn Records — And Also He’s Ordered To Pay Our Lawyers An Additional $21K In Legal Fees — Looks To Me Like Now He’s Pushed His Luck Too Far — I Am Guessing That Gil Cedillo Will Have To Withdraw His Support At Some Point — Beginning To Look Very Much Like Yu’s Days Are Numbered

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PUC Charter Schools — Former Home Of Convicted Felon And Disgraced Former School Board Member Ref Rodriguez — Sued To Enforce Compliance With The California Public Records Act — They Refused To Respond At All And Now They Will Have To Pay — And Comply!

In January 2019 I started investigating Los Angeles charter schools using the California Public Records Act and immediately ran into the typical block-headed obstructionism so beloved of CPRA-subject public agencies. I got some pretty interesting material early on, when I was still focusing on how charters reacted to the UTLA strike. As I began to understand the issues better I started looking into co-locations in general and learned, e.g., a lot of important stuff about GANAS academy.

This material ultimately helped to some extent supporters of their co-location target, Catskill Elementary School, fight off their co-location attempt, which really started to show me the utility of the CPRA not just to scholars and journalists, but to anti-charter activists as well. But things really took off in June 2019 when I received a massive release of emails from Green Dot Charter Schools containing explosive correspondence with the California Charter Schools Association.

These documents revealed, among many, many other things, that LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner allowed CCSA lobbyists to vet and edit an advance copy of his first major policy speech. That board member Nick Melvoin asked CCSA lobbyists to write a board resolution for him that would facilitate charters expanding control over LAUSD facilities. That Melvoin shared confidential legal information with CCSA while they were actively suing the District.

That former Board member and now convicted felon Ref Rodriguez also allowed CCSA lobbyists to edit and vet at least one Board resolution. That CCSA intended to put all California students in charter schools by 2030. Revelations from this material were widely covered in the press, including the Los Angeles Times, and Capital and Main, and Diane Ravitch’s blog, and elsewhere. The ramifications of these revelations are still unfolding even now, more than six months later.
Continue reading PUC Charter Schools — Former Home Of Convicted Felon And Disgraced Former School Board Member Ref Rodriguez — Sued To Enforce Compliance With The California Public Records Act — They Refused To Respond At All And Now They Will Have To Pay — And Comply!

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Los Angeles City Council District Seven — Repped By Councilmember Monica Rodriguez — Sued To Enforce Compliance With The California Public Records Act — Over Emails Concerning LAPD And Vigilante Anti-Homeless Facebook Groups In The San Fernando Valley — CD7 Ignored Requests For Months On End — Which Is Against The Damn Law!


Last summer it was revealed that LAPD officers participated in various secretive vigilante anti-homeless Facebook groups. Stories ran in the press and LAPD Chief Michel Moore banned his officers from participating. At the time I was investigating the story through Public Records Act requests to various City departments, including all San Fernando Valley Council Districts.

Most of them complied, albeit reluctantly and with the usual idiotic foot-dragging obstructionism, but Council District 7, repped by Monica Rodriguez, actually just completely stopped communicating with me after some point. This is a typical tactic in the City of Los Angeles,1 and the only recourse provided by the law is to file a lawsuit seeking to compel compliance. So on Friday, January 17, 2020, assisted by fabulous and heroic attorneys Ian Stringham and Tasha Hill, that’s just what I did! Here’s a copy of the petition, and read on for transcribed excerpts!
Continue reading Los Angeles City Council District Seven — Repped By Councilmember Monica Rodriguez — Sued To Enforce Compliance With The California Public Records Act — Over Emails Concerning LAPD And Vigilante Anti-Homeless Facebook Groups In The San Fernando Valley — CD7 Ignored Requests For Months On End — Which Is Against The Damn Law!

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