Category Archives: Public Records Act Pragmatics

Fashion District BID Refuses To Accept The Fact That Judge Mitchell Beckloff Ruled Against Them In My Current Public Records Suit — So On Monday They Appealed The Ruling — Here’s A Copy Of Their Appeal Brief — But No Commentary Because At This Point The Details Are Beyond Me

This is just the briefest of brief little notes to announce that the Fashion District BID, which I was forced to sue because of their surreally intransigent refusal to comply with the damn law, and which got ruled against in July by Judge Mitchell Beckloff, is doubling down on their nonsense by appealing Beckloff’s decision! Here’s a copy of their brief and, as evidently even Bradley & Gmelich can see that unhinged BID attorney Carol Humiston is not to be trusted, they’ve brought in a ringer, Dawn Cushman, to write the damn thing.

At this point the issues are chasing one another’s tails in some high-altitude lawyerly empyrean hypersphere where normal folks like me can’t even breathe, let alone provide color commentary. I can’t even transcribe selections because who knows what to select?! Although even despite my ignorance I’m perfectly able to mock Cushman’s turgid and repetitive prose!1 So here’s a link to the brief they filed, and I’ll let you know if anything comprehensible happens!
Continue reading Fashion District BID Refuses To Accept The Fact That Judge Mitchell Beckloff Ruled Against Them In My Current Public Records Suit — So On Monday They Appealed The Ruling — Here’s A Copy Of Their Appeal Brief — But No Commentary Because At This Point The Details Are Beyond Me

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The Story Of A Request For Emails From LAPD — And All The Ridiculous Reasons They Propounded For Not Producing — And How They Then Produced!

On January 13, 2019 I asked the Los Angeles Police Department for emails between CD13 staffer Dan Halden and any LAPD employee from January 1, 2016 through December 31, 2018. Yesterday, eight months later, they produced emails from October and November 2018 with the promise of more to come. How we got to this point is the subject of today’s post.1 Here’s what the request said exactly:

Per my rights under the California Public Records Act, please provide all correspondence between anyone who works in the Los Angeles Police Department AND daniel.halden@lacity.org, for the time period of January 1, 2016 to December 31, 2018. Correspondence is defined as all emails, texts or other communications.

To be honest, when I made this request in January 2019 I was expecting LAPD to refuse to produce the records on technical grounds,2 And on January 18, 2019 they did exactly that. They gave two separate and mutually contradictory reasons for refusing to produce.

First they told me that “[y[our request does not describe the records sought clearly enough to permit my staff to determine whether any responsive documents exist.” This claim is based on the CPRA at §6253(b), which requires of requests that they “reasonably [describe] an identifiable record or records”. LAPD’s second reason for refusing to produce was that it would be too much work:

A search of email communications and correspondence for “anyone who works in the Department” would be unduly burdensome for the Department as interpreted in the “public interest” provision of section 6255 of the Act, and would require a separate search of each individual email account of approximately 14,400 Department email accounts.

Continue reading The Story Of A Request For Emails From LAPD — And All The Ridiculous Reasons They Propounded For Not Producing — And How They Then Produced!

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City Of Los Angeles Sued Yet Again To Enforce Compliance With The Public Records Act — This Time It’s Over CD14’s Obstinate Refusal To Produce Emails Between Staffer Joella Hopkins And Various City Officials — Mostly Having To Do With Homeless Issues — CD14 Commo Deputy Isaiah Calvin Risibly Claimed That Dozens If Not Hundreds Of Emails Were Exempt As Attorney Client Privileged — But I Obtained Some Of These From Other Sources And — He’s Lying — Or Confused — Or Both — But That Doesn’t Matter Under The Law — Hence This Petition

This is just a very quick note to announce that due to CD14’s well-known and weirdly intransigent refusal to comply with even the most minimal mandates of the California Public Records Act I have been forced to file a writ petition against these outlaw City officials seeking to enforce my constitutional right to read their damn emails.

On December 30, 2018 I asked Paul Habib and some other Huizar staffies for “emails between joella.hopkins@lacity.org or ari.simon@lacity.org and at least one of 34490@lapd.online or 32511@lapd.online or gita.oneill@lacity.org or kurt.knecht@lacity.org.” Note that the two police there are Marc Reina and Deon Joseph respectively. They hummed, hemmed, hawed, and noped and eventually produced 62 pages of ludicrously incomplete emails. For instance, they produced the first page of a 14 page thread about Night on Broadway but not the other 13 pages. And crazy stuff like that.

And they claimed, possibly due to the inclusion of Deputy City Attorneys Gita O’Neill and Kurt Knecht in my request, that they had withheld some material under the attorney/client privilege. But you know, and this is good CPRA practice, when possible I like to hit up as many agencies as possible for the same or overlapping material. It’s the best way not only to get complete sets of stuff but also to check whether responses are honest. And, sadly, often they are not.
Continue reading City Of Los Angeles Sued Yet Again To Enforce Compliance With The Public Records Act — This Time It’s Over CD14’s Obstinate Refusal To Produce Emails Between Staffer Joella Hopkins And Various City Officials — Mostly Having To Do With Homeless Issues — CD14 Commo Deputy Isaiah Calvin Risibly Claimed That Dozens If Not Hundreds Of Emails Were Exempt As Attorney Client Privileged — But I Obtained Some Of These From Other Sources And — He’s Lying — Or Confused — Or Both — But That Doesn’t Matter Under The Law — Hence This Petition

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How I Finally — For Only The Second Freaking Time Ever — Got Advance Notice Of Some Homeless Encampment Sweeps From LA Sanitation Via The Public Records Act After Three Long Years Of Fighting With Them About It — And How They Told Me That I Couldn’t Look At The Next Day’s Schedule But Only Today’s — So I Showed Up At The Public Works Building This Morning At 7 AM And Eventually Did Get To See The Schedule — Which Is A Huge Breakthrough! — But It Also Became Clear That They Have Not Been Fully Honest In Their Claim That The Schedules Aren’t Produced In Advance — So The Next Phase Is To Get The Next Day’s Schedules Each Afternoon

I have been trying to use the California Public Records Act to get advance notice of homeless encampment sweeps for three years now. After a few months of arguing with LA Sanitation, in 2016 I actually managed to get a schedule one day in advance. I went out and filmed the whole thing, but then the City went back into full metal obstructionism and refused to hand over another advance schedule.

So I’ve been pushing them on it since then without making much progress. I did, however, get them to agree in principal that some of the records containing advance info about scheduled sweeps was not exempt from production. However, and frustratingly, this did not lead to my actually gaining access to schedules in advance. But in June of this year a lawyer, Michael Risher, agreed to help me out, and he evidently acted as a catalyst.

He wrote them a demand letter and they dragged their feet and dragged their feet but eventually did make various concessions, although still did not produce. One thing led to another, and we came to the conclusion that I would need to go to the Public Works Building in person and demand to see the schedule. I gave Sanitation notice that I would show up this morning at 7 am to look at today’s confirmation sheet.1 I showed up as promised, and after about 15 minutes of confusion with the guard, she let me go upstairs.
Continue reading How I Finally — For Only The Second Freaking Time Ever — Got Advance Notice Of Some Homeless Encampment Sweeps From LA Sanitation Via The Public Records Act After Three Long Years Of Fighting With Them About It — And How They Told Me That I Couldn’t Look At The Next Day’s Schedule But Only Today’s — So I Showed Up At The Public Works Building This Morning At 7 AM And Eventually Did Get To See The Schedule — Which Is A Huge Breakthrough! — But It Also Became Clear That They Have Not Been Fully Honest In Their Claim That The Schedules Aren’t Produced In Advance — So The Next Phase Is To Get The Next Day’s Schedules Each Afternoon

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City Of Los Angeles Concedes Defeat In My California Public Records Act Petition Based On Cedillo Staffer Mel Ilomin’s Wildly Unsupportable Exemption Claims — They Settled Up And Paid $4,720 In Fees And Costs — It Seems To Me Personally That It Would Be More Efficient Just To Follow The Damn Law From The Get-Go — Rather Than Paying $5K Every Time Some Council Staffer Feels Like Throwing His Toys From The Pram — But I Am Willing To Admit That I Have Zero Experience In Running Major Cities — So Perhaps This Loss Is A Net Win For The City In Some Inscrutable Way That We Amateurs Have No Hope Of Unscrewing — Concluding With An Unscientific Postscript On What Bethelwel Wilson’s Petulance Reveals About Some Ad Hoc Bullshit CPRA Obstructionism That Mike Dundas Made Up One Time

Recall that in June of this year I was forced by the utterly indefensible intransigence of Gil Cedillo staffer Mel Ilomin, who would persist in his bizarre claims that some emails between his office and LAPD were exempt from production under the California Public Records Act, to file a writ petition seeking to enforce my rights under that hallowed law. And less than a month later the City caved and produced a bunch of emails.

Which, as you may know, makes me the prevailing party which, as you also may know, means that the City must pay my attorney’s fees and the court costs, which they just recently did to the tune of $4,720, and here is a copy of the settlement agreement laying out the terms.1 And one of the tragic aspects of this basically silly little case is that they have not mended their ways in the least. City offices continue to make totally bogus exemption claims for which the only remedy is another suit. And if that’s what the City wants, well, I’m not going to be the one to disappoint them.

Oh, yes, the interesting thing about that settlement!2 So the CPRA imposes various duties on local agencies, local agency being something of a term of art in CPRA-ology3 meaning “entity subject to the CPRA.” Like for instance, when a local agency receives a request, the local agency must respond in ten days.4 And when a local agency once releases some records to any member of the public, then by law the local agency has thenceforth and for all time waived the possibility of claiming exemptions and must therefore release that same record to anyone who asks for it.5
Continue reading City Of Los Angeles Concedes Defeat In My California Public Records Act Petition Based On Cedillo Staffer Mel Ilomin’s Wildly Unsupportable Exemption Claims — They Settled Up And Paid $4,720 In Fees And Costs — It Seems To Me Personally That It Would Be More Efficient Just To Follow The Damn Law From The Get-Go — Rather Than Paying $5K Every Time Some Council Staffer Feels Like Throwing His Toys From The Pram — But I Am Willing To Admit That I Have Zero Experience In Running Major Cities — So Perhaps This Loss Is A Net Win For The City In Some Inscrutable Way That We Amateurs Have No Hope Of Unscrewing — Concluding With An Unscientific Postscript On What Bethelwel Wilson’s Petulance Reveals About Some Ad Hoc Bullshit CPRA Obstructionism That Mike Dundas Made Up One Time

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Judge Beckloff Signs Judgment Granting Writ Of Mandate In Our California Public Records Act Petition Against The Chinatown BID — This Puts His Earlier Order Into Force And Gives The BID 30 Days-Ish To Produce The Damn Records — But I’m Guessing They Will Ignore This Too — So We Will See What Happens!

The latest development in the ongoing saga of Katherine McNenny’s and my California Public Records Act suit against the Chinatown Business Improvement District is that the judge signed a judgment granting our petition for a writ of mandate.1 You can get a copy here on Archive.Org.2 This gives the BID 30 days to comply, and we shall certainly see what happens.

Note that the signing of this judgment is not unexpected news, as we prevailed in court last month, but without this step, putting last month’s order into force, there’s no way to compel the BID to comply, which it seems pretty clearly is going to be necessary since they have shown no signs of being willing to comply in the absence of compulsion.

Without the excellent and relentless work of our lawyers, Abenicio Cisneros and Anna von Herrmann, by the way, none of this would have happened. Cisneros has also blogged about the victory from the lawyerly point of view, absolutely worth reading. Stay tuned for further developments.
Continue reading Judge Beckloff Signs Judgment Granting Writ Of Mandate In Our California Public Records Act Petition Against The Chinatown BID — This Puts His Earlier Order Into Force And Gives The BID 30 Days-Ish To Produce The Damn Records — But I’m Guessing They Will Ignore This Too — So We Will See What Happens!

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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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How To Use The California Public Records Act To Learn The Names Of LAPD Officers Who Responded To A Call — A Tutorial — These Techniques Are Useful For Other Purposes Also!

I recently learned how to use the California Public Records Act to learn the names of LAPD officers who respond to a call for service. This information is very useful to me, so probably it will be useful to others also. I didn’t previously know how to do it, and I wasn’t even sure it could be done. But it can! Which is important! And hence this post explaining how to do it! To get started you will need to know the date, time, and location of the call.1 That’s all that’s necessary.

In order to keep the explanation grounded I’m going to write about a concrete real-life example in parallel with the discussion of the general techniques. So imagine you were at Alpine Recreation Center in Chinatown on August 5, 2019 at about 10 p.m. and you saw a police car arrive and the officers talk to someone. We’re going to use the CPRA to learn who those officers were and various other facts about the call.

The first thing you have to do is find the reporting district that the location is in. The LAPD has the whole City divided up into these zones and most of their records are organized by them rather than by other more familiar systems. A little Googlism reveals that the address of the park is 817 Yale St., Los Angeles, CA 90012. The Los Angeles Times has a lovely map of the City organized according to LAPD stuff.2

It might be possible to search in that map, I don’t know, but you can also click down into it until you get to the location in question. Maybe it will take a visit to Google Maps to learn where the place is. And eventually you will learn that Alpine Rec Center is in Reporting District 111. Once you know the reporting district it’s time to make the CPRA request.

CPRA requests to LAPD go through the City’s NextRequest platform. This is self-explanatory and I won’t go into details about how to use it.3 Ask for all calls for service in your reporting district on or about your date/time. I don’t ever like to let slip exactly what I’m looking for, so in this case I asked for all calls for service in RD 111 for August 2019.
Continue reading How To Use The California Public Records Act To Learn The Names Of LAPD Officers Who Responded To A Call — A Tutorial — These Techniques Are Useful For Other Purposes Also!

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Greater Leimert Park Village BID Settles My CPRA Suit Against Them — Agrees To Pay $9,000 In Legal Fees And Costs — And Of Course To Produce Previously Requested Records — In Very High Quality Electronic Format Too — Which Is Wonky But Exceedingly Important — Especially For Future Requests

As you may recall, last November, due to their refusal to even so much as respond to my requests for material under the California Public Records Act, I was forced to file a writ petition against the Greater Leimert Park Village Business Improvment District.1 I haven’t written much about it since because it’s mostly been stalling and negotiation. However, I am pleased to announce that the other day we finally settled the damn thing!

They have agreed to pay my lawyer, the incomparable Anna von Herrmann, $9,000 for her time and also to produce the records. As importantly, they’ve agreed to produce the emails I asked for in EML format.2 At first the BID wanted to include a freaking nondisparagement clause and a nondisclosure clause in the agreement, but I refused and they didn’t insist. After all, disclosure and disparagement are two of the four pillars on which this blog stands!3

Get a copy of the settlement agreement here, watch for the publication of the emails when they come in, and get ready for a steady stream of information about this rapidly gentrifying area and the BID’s involvement in the processes that that entails.
Continue reading Greater Leimert Park Village BID Settles My CPRA Suit Against Them — Agrees To Pay $9,000 In Legal Fees And Costs — And Of Course To Produce Previously Requested Records — In Very High Quality Electronic Format Too — Which Is Wonky But Exceedingly Important — Especially For Future Requests

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Paul Koretz’s Office Does Not Track Constituent Opinions On Issues — Or At Least They Have Not Done So In 2019 — This Is According To David Hersch — Koretz’s Deputy Chief Of Staff — So All That Dutiful Public Comment You’ve Been Submitting To CD5 O Best Beloved? — No One Over There Even Cares — Did You Call Or Email Koretz And Beg Him To Have A Damn Heart And Not Outlaw Vehicle Dwelling? — Your Thoughts Were Not Recorded — Along With The Story Of How I Learned This Tragic Fact — Which Illuminates The Uncaring Arrogance Of The City Of Los Angeles In Responding To Requests For Public Records

I can’t write yet about the City Council’s appalling behavior on Tuesday with respect to outlawing vehicle dwelling by renewing LAMC 85.02. It’s still too raw, and it’s too soon to have related records to publish. Local hero Lexis-Olivier Ray has an essential story on it in L.A. Taco, a story he inadvertently became a participant in when the police illegally forced him, a working journalist, to leave the room.

The day before the vote a lot of folks were calling their Councilmembers, leaving messages, sending emails, and so on, urging their repsters to vote against this abhorrent nonsense, much of it coordinated via Twitter. And to encourage action, @MamaWetzel told us that these calls do matter because there are staffers whose jobs it is to track public opinion on issues via spreadsheets and so on.1 And at that word, spreadsheets, well, my eyes just rolled back in my head with joy because, as you know, a spreadsheet is a public record!

So I immediately asked a few representative council offices for 2019 records used to track constituent opinion on issues, giving spreadsheets as an example but not limiting it just to spreadsheets.2 This, as I said, was on Monday, just a few days ago. In CPRAlandia that’s nothing, no time at all, an eyeblink. So I wasn’t, and still am not, expecting results soon. But despite that, yesterday, July 31, 2019, I did actually get some very interesting news from CD5, who is pretty easy to make requests of, being on NextRequest.

Their designated CPRA responder, David Hersch, initially told me that my request was “overboard, [sic] unduly burdensome and unfocused” because, he claimed, there were too many records responsive and that therefore he wouldn’t process it until I narrowed it down. This is a standard move in the City of Los Angeles and I discuss it in great detail below. I responded, as I typically do, by asking how many records there were and explaining that the request was exceedingly focused.

Hersch responded five hours later by saying that actually there were no records at all and that CD5 didn’t keep track of constituent opinions, or at least had not done so in 2019.3 This is pretty interesting news even apart from the interesting but technical matters regarding CPRA. It’s not like Koretz doesn’t do stuff on the Council. He’s famous for his animal rights work, the importance of which I am not discounting.

For instance, just recently he’s been spending a lot of time saving Billy the Elephant, and there was that vegan food thing from December. This year alone he’s sponsored 80 motions. But all those calls and letters you folks in CD5 have spent the time to send? All that public comment? No one over there is keeping track at all. Paul Koretz has his mind made up, he’s gonna do what he’s gonna do, and ain’t all your tears wash out a word of it.4

And at this point I won’t be surprised if none of them keep track. I will certainly be working on finding out, of course. Which would be an important part of an explanation as to why Los Quince Jefes can sit up on their dais so complacently day after clueless day fiddling with their phones while their computers automatically vote yes on oppression and the City prepares to burn. That’s today’s revelation and today’s rant. Read on for the CPRA wonkery!
Continue reading Paul Koretz’s Office Does Not Track Constituent Opinions On Issues — Or At Least They Have Not Done So In 2019 — This Is According To David Hersch — Koretz’s Deputy Chief Of Staff — So All That Dutiful Public Comment You’ve Been Submitting To CD5 O Best Beloved? — No One Over There Even Cares — Did You Call Or Email Koretz And Beg Him To Have A Damn Heart And Not Outlaw Vehicle Dwelling? — Your Thoughts Were Not Recorded — Along With The Story Of How I Learned This Tragic Fact — Which Illuminates The Uncaring Arrogance Of The City Of Los Angeles In Responding To Requests For Public Records

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