Tag Archives: Judge James Chalfant

My Public Records Act Case Against The Historic Core BID Went To Trial Today — And The BIDdies Lost Big-Time! — Judge Orders Them To Do A New Search! — And Basically Scoffs At Their Argument That MailChimp Doesn’t Send Emails! — BID Lawyer Jeff Briggs Actually Argued In Open Court That They Shouldn’t Have To Hand Over Records Because Of The Upcoming Fee Motion! — Total Loser Move! — If They Were Mops The Floor Would Be Cleanest!

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.
Continue reading My Public Records Act Case Against The Historic Core BID Went To Trial Today — And The BIDdies Lost Big-Time! — Judge Orders Them To Do A New Search! — And Basically Scoffs At Their Argument That MailChimp Doesn’t Send Emails! — BID Lawyer Jeff Briggs Actually Argued In Open Court That They Shouldn’t Have To Hand Over Records Because Of The Upcoming Fee Motion! — Total Loser Move! — If They Were Mops The Floor Would Be Cleanest!

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Petitioner’s Trial Brief Filed In My Lawsuit Against The Historic Core BID — Get A Copy Here — Read About How Blair Besten Did Not Search The BID’s Mailchimp Account For Responsive Emails Because — Wait For It — She Does Not Consider What Mailchimp Sends To Be Emails — And Other Stories — Trial On The Calendar For September 3, 2019 At 1:30 PM — Stanley Mosk Courthouse Department 85

Perhaps you recall that in August 2018, due to the unhinged intransigent obstructionism of both Ms. Blair Besten, the half-pint Norma Desmond of the Historic Core, and Mr. Jeffrey Charles Briggs, the self-proclaimed Hollywood superlawyer with whom she cahoots, I was forced to file a petition to enforce my rights under the California Public Records Act with a trial scheduled for September 3, 2019 at 1:30 PM in Department 85 of the Stanley Mosk Courthouse.

Well time rolls on, one damn day at a time, we’re all done with meeting and conferring and discovery and all the suchlike pleasant pastimes in which we, the litigious few, engage like some elaborate dance before the main event, and now it’s time to file our trial brief. So that’s just what we did, just yesterday, and you can get a copy here.

And what a brief it is, friends, elaborating as it does on not just the broad overview of the utter unhingedness of Besten’s intransigent obstructionism, but both the nitty and the gritty, every last gritty little grain, of it, spelled out in painstaking detail like a tale told not by but certainly of an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying a lot of something about a whole damn lot of nothing.

Read on for some selections! Although, listen, I’m leaving out all the small-scale details of the BID’s abject failure to respond properly to my requests, where they sent 19 emails here and 17 emails there, none of which were responsive, and then repeated this over and over and over again and then was all like computer problems! Logistical difficulties! Boo freaking boo-hoo-hoo! That right there is a far more than adequate summary.

Also I’m leaving out the details of the requests, which were for interesting emails, which is more than enough detail to follow the argument. If you want to read all that stuff, and the supporting evidence, and it is certainly worth reading, read the whole brief!

Don’t miss the place where Blair Besten insisted under oath that those things that Mailchimp sends out to subscribers aren’t emails, they’re newsletters, and then when asked again if they were emails she was instructed by her supergenius of a lawyer, Mr. Jeffrey Charles Briggs, not to answer as the question called for an expert opinion. Also check out the super-mathematical agreement I made with the BID for production schedules for future requests!
Continue reading Petitioner’s Trial Brief Filed In My Lawsuit Against The Historic Core BID — Get A Copy Here — Read About How Blair Besten Did Not Search The BID’s Mailchimp Account For Responsive Emails Because — Wait For It — She Does Not Consider What Mailchimp Sends To Be Emails — And Other Stories — Trial On The Calendar For September 3, 2019 At 1:30 PM — Stanley Mosk Courthouse Department 85

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SB749 — Maria Elena Durazo’s Proposed Changes To The California Public Records Act Would Fix Two Problems — First — Local Agencies Often Claim That Records Generated By Their Private Contractors Are Exempt As Trade Secrets — This Bill Would State That Such Information Relating To Employment Conditions Is Not In Fact A Trade Secret — Second — This Bill Would Require That Requesters Are Named As Parties In All So-Called Reverse CPRA Actions — In Which A Third Party Sues To Prevent Record Release — And Would Require Parties Who Initiate Unsuccessful Reverse CPRA Actions To Pay Requester’s Fees

Senator Maria Elena Durazo filed SB-749, amending the California Public Records Act, last month, but it was only on Wednesday that it was amended away from a placeholder. The fleshed-out bill addresses two problems with the California Public Records Act.

First, it would state that “records relating to wages, benefits, working hours, and other employment terms and conditions of employees working for a private industry employer pursuant to a contract with a state or local agency shall not be deemed to be trade secrets under the act.” In my experience it’s fairly common for local agencies to claim that records like this are exempt. Sometimes they claim that they’re trade secrets1 and sometimes that they’re material found in personnel files.2

That last claim is pretty clearly bogus, so probably the more serious obstructionists rely more on claims of trade secrets. For instance I had this happen to me with the Fashion District BID in the person of Rena Leddy, who refused to tell me the hourly rates of the BID’s renewal consultant, Urban Place Consulting. That is, until a kindly lawyer sent them a not-so-kindly demand letter on my behalf. Then they coughed the goods right up.3 So if the bill passes with this bit intact they won’t be able to do that any more, and the personnel file claim is functionally a non-starter, so that’ll be good.

Incidentally, while I understand the danger of letting the perfect be an enemy to the good, I would still just like to say that the problem being solved here is at best a minor particular instance of a much larger family of problems involving records owned by private contractors who are working for public agencies. That is, that the agencies can write the contracts so that the contractor owns the records and the agency explicitly does not have access to them.

The Hollywood Property Owners’ Alliance famously did exactly this in 2016 with the Andrews International BID Patrol. Kerry Morrison even admitted under oath that the purpose of the change was to thwart my CPRA requests. And the judge ruled that it was allowable under California law for them to do this, and even to make the change retroactive.

But such is not the law in every state. For instance, Florida Statutes section 119.0701 makes pretty much all records generated by private contractors subject to the CPRA if they relate to work done for a public agency. It’s a really powerful, really beautiful statute. We need a version here, and this bill is not it. But it’s not bad.

The second issue addressed by Durazo’s bill has to do with reverse CPRA actions. In these suits a third party, e.g. a police union, sues to prevent a public agency from releasing records to a requester. The Court of Appeal held last year that the third party is liable for the requester’s fees if they lose, and this bill would formalize that finding by putting it into the statute. The bill also requires that the requester be brought into a reverse CPRA action as a party, I assume so that the case can’t be heard without the requester’s input.

And finally, and this may be the most powerful part, the law would forbid a court from ordering that a record be withheld if the order is based on a discretionary exemption. But most of the exemptions are discretionary. In fact I kind of think that all of them are, but maybe there’s something I don’t understand. This clause alone will make it harder to win reverse CPRA actions, as it should be. Turn the page for a transcription of the legislative counsel’s digest and the proposed new statutory language.
Continue reading SB749 — Maria Elena Durazo’s Proposed Changes To The California Public Records Act Would Fix Two Problems — First — Local Agencies Often Claim That Records Generated By Their Private Contractors Are Exempt As Trade Secrets — This Bill Would State That Such Information Relating To Employment Conditions Is Not In Fact A Trade Secret — Second — This Bill Would Require That Requesters Are Named As Parties In All So-Called Reverse CPRA Actions — In Which A Third Party Sues To Prevent Record Release — And Would Require Parties Who Initiate Unsuccessful Reverse CPRA Actions To Pay Requester’s Fees

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Los Angeles Police Protective League Anti-SB1421 Case — Judge Chalfant Accepts 170.6 Motion By First Amendment Coalition And Los Angeles Times To Disqualify Him — All Scheduled Hearings Are Cancelled — Case Transferred To Judge Mitchell Beckloff

A couple weeks ago Superior Court Judge James Chalfant ruled that the ACLU, the First Amendment Coalition, the Los Angeles Times, and some other parties could join the case of the appalling petition brought by the Los Angeles Police Protective League seeking to prevent the City of Los Angeles from complying with SB1421 by releasing records relating to police misconduct occurring before January first of this year.

On January 23, 2019 these new parties, not counting the ACLU, filed a so-called 170.6 motion, asking Chalfant to disqualify himself. This is a standard move in California civil trials, authorized by the California Code of Civil Procedure at §170.6, which allows any party to move to disqualify a judge on the grounds of bias, although they don’t have to explain what bias they perceive. As long as the motion is filed on time it must be accepted and the case must be transferred.

For whatever reason the LAPPL wasn’t happy with this motion and they filed an opposition to it on January 25, essentially arguing that the deadline had passed and that the motion should be rejected because the so-called media intervenors1 already knew that Chalfant was handling the case when they asked to join, that Chalfant had already made rulings in the case, that switching judges now would mess up the case for everyone else, and so on.

The media intervenors filed a response to that opposition on January 28, basically stating that the Police Protective League’s position was full of crap and they can’t read the law or, if they can, then they didn’t summarize it correctly in their opposition. There was a hearing on this stuff on Friday2 and Chalfant accepted the motion to disqualify himself and reassigned the case to Judge Mitchell Beckloff.

His order accepting the motion is here, and the notice of reassignment is here. The most immediate effect of this is that all pending hearings are cancelled, including the one upcoming on Tuesday, February 5. I’ll let you know when and if Beckloff schedules anything. Meanwhile, if you want to browse through (most of) the paper filed already in this case you can find it here on Archive.Org.
Continue reading Los Angeles Police Protective League Anti-SB1421 Case — Judge Chalfant Accepts 170.6 Motion By First Amendment Coalition And Los Angeles Times To Disqualify Him — All Scheduled Hearings Are Cancelled — Case Transferred To Judge Mitchell Beckloff

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This Morning In The Anti-SB1421 Petition Case Brought By The Los Angeles Police Protective League — Judge James Chalfant Ruled That The ACLU Of Southern California — Representing Valerie Rivera — Could Intervene — And So Can The First Amendment Coalition And Various Newspapers — Although In A More Limited Way — Oh, And The City Of Los Angeles Did Actually File An Opposition To The LAPPL’s Position — So That’s Good

Yesterday the First Amendment Coalition filed a request to be allowed to intervene in the reprehensible petition filed on December 31 by the reprehensible Los Angeles Police Protective League seeking to bar retroactive enforcement of the monumental SB1421, which took effect on January 1 and is meant to require the release of records relating to serious cases of police misconduct.

It turns out that, unknown to me before this morning’s hearing, the ACLU of Southern California also filed a request to be allowed to intervene. They’re representing Valerie Rivera, mother of Eric Rivera, killed by the LAPD in 2017. She requested records relating to the investigation of the officer who killed her son and was denied on the basis of the LAPPL’s restraining order.

And there was a hearing this morning on these requests before James Chalfant, so off I went downtown to the good old Stanley Mosk Courthouse to see and hear what went on. Before the hearing really got going, by the way, it came out that the City of Los Angeles has actually filed an opposition to the LAPPL’s petition, although I don’t yet have a copy. This is news because in other cases like this one the governmental agencies have not all opposed the suits. I also learned that the LAPPL’s lawyer, Richard Levine, is filing scads of these cases, county by county by county. Which is interesting and, I’m sure, worth a lot of money to him.

Anyway, after a lot of discussion Chalfant decided that the ACLU could intervene in the case but that the FAC and its gaggle of newspapers could only intervene in a limited way. This is because he found that Ms. Rivera had a more compelling interest in the outcome than did the media. The FAC and the newspapers are required to file their opposition brief jointly with the ACLU so that Chalfant doesn’t have to read too much stuff,1 and they’re not allowed to seek attorney’s fees from the LAPPL. The ACLU will be allowed to seek fees.

At first Chalfant seemed inclined to postpone the upcoming February 5 hearing,2 but ultimately he did not. And here’s a copy of the minute order detailing what went on. Turn the page for a transcription.
Continue reading This Morning In The Anti-SB1421 Petition Case Brought By The Los Angeles Police Protective League — Judge James Chalfant Ruled That The ACLU Of Southern California — Representing Valerie Rivera — Could Intervene — And So Can The First Amendment Coalition And Various Newspapers — Although In A More Limited Way — Oh, And The City Of Los Angeles Did Actually File An Opposition To The LAPPL’s Position — So That’s Good

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First Amendment Coalition Files Ex Parte Application For Leave To Intervene In Los Angeles Police Protective League Anti-SB1421 Case — Joined By The L.A. Times, The California Newspaper Publishers’ Association, And Many Other Esteemed Journalistic Groups — Hearing On This Application Tomorrow Morning At 8:30 A.M. In Dept. 85 Stanley Mosk Courthouse

Today the First Amendment Coalition and a bunch of newspapers and newspaper-adjacent organizations filed an ex parte application for leave to intervene in the appalling case initiated by the Los Angeles Police Protective League seeking to prevent California’s new police transparency law, SB1421, from applying retroactively to records of police misconduct prior to 2019. This same crapola was already tried elsewhere and decisively shot down by the California Supreme Court, but, for whatever reason, in Los Angeles County the case must go on.

FAC is seeking to intervene in the case, even though they’re not parties to it. This is evidently sometimes allowed, according to the Wiki, when “a judgment in a particular case may affect the rights of nonparties, who ideally should have the right to be heard.” Here’s the pleading filed by the FAC. It’s called an ex parte application because they’re asking the judge to decide whether they should be allowed into the case without requiring the other parties to be present at the hearing, which is tomorrow morning at 8:30 a.m. in Department 85 of the Stanley Mosk Courthouse.

Because they aren’t parties to the case, they have to convince the judge that the interests of justice are served by allowing them to become parties. This argument is a huge part of their filing. They also argue that neither of the actual parties to the case, the PPL and the City, have any interest in ensuring that the public has access to records. In fact, they argue, it’s possible that the City may not file a response to the petition. Also, I guess to save time, they include the briefing that they’re proposing to file if the judge allows them to. It’s a powerful piece of writing, and you can find transcribed selections after the break.
Continue reading First Amendment Coalition Files Ex Parte Application For Leave To Intervene In Los Angeles Police Protective League Anti-SB1421 Case — Joined By The L.A. Times, The California Newspaper Publishers’ Association, And Many Other Esteemed Journalistic Groups — Hearing On This Application Tomorrow Morning At 8:30 A.M. In Dept. 85 Stanley Mosk Courthouse

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On December 31, 2018 The Los Angeles Police Protective League Asked For And Obtained A Court Order Preventing LAPD From Applying SB1421 Retroactively — Thus While The Rest Of The State Has Access To Records Of Police Misconduct Los Angeles Is Left In The Dark — At Least Until The Scheduled February 5, 2019 Hearing — City Of LA Opposition Is Due By January 22 — I Have Copies Of The LAPPL Petition — And Craig Freaking Lally’s Declaration In Support — And All Other Pleadings!

If you’re reading this blog you’re very likely aware that on January 1, 2019 the monumental SB1421 took effect, basically ending exemptions which, until now, have prevented the release of records documenting even the most extreme cases of police misconduct. Police agencies all over the state are freaking out about this, and some even asked the California Supreme Court to declare that the law didn’t reply retroactively. The justices shot down that malarkey last week, and then upped the stakes by asking to be briefed on whether the new law required the release of even more material than had been anticipated.

And thus police departments are beginning to release these records. For instance, there’s this case of an officer in Burlingame who’d been fired for offering to help a drunk driver with her charge in exchange for sex. And this newly released information evidently has the San Mateo County D.A. reconsidering his earlier decision not to criminally charge the officer. Which is how this law is supposed to work. And it seems that that’s how it is working.

Except, it turns out, in the City of Los Angeles. It doesn’t seem to have been widely reported on,1 but it seems that here, the Los Angeles Police Protective League filed an emergency petition on December 31, 2018, asking the Superior Court to stop the LAPD from applying SB1421 retroactively. And shockingly, astoundingly, appallingly, the court agreed and issued an order to that very effect, which is in effect at least until the scheduled hearing on February 5, 2019.2

The LAPPL’s whole argument seems to be that officers have made crucial career decisions relying on the privacy of the records, and that therefore it would be manifestly unfair to publish them now. For instance, according to Craig Lally in a sworn declaration, police officers often agree not to appeal findings of misconduct even though they think they’re innocent just to get things settled quickly and not disrupt operations. But, says Lally, they would never have done this had they known that the records would be published at some point.3

And apparently there’s really nothing to be done about this until the hearing. We are just not going to get these records right away. Oh, except it’s possible to read all the pleadings filed in the case. The City of Los Angeles hasn’t yet responded, but I obtained copies of everything that there is so far and published it here on Archive.Org. It’s upsetting, but it’s better to know. Turn the page for a linked list of everything and a transcription of selections from Lally’s declaration.
Continue reading On December 31, 2018 The Los Angeles Police Protective League Asked For And Obtained A Court Order Preventing LAPD From Applying SB1421 Retroactively — Thus While The Rest Of The State Has Access To Records Of Police Misconduct Los Angeles Is Left In The Dark — At Least Until The Scheduled February 5, 2019 Hearing — City Of LA Opposition Is Due By January 22 — I Have Copies Of The LAPPL Petition — And Craig Freaking Lally’s Declaration In Support — And All Other Pleadings!

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Judge James Chalfant Issues Final Judgment In Okulick Petition Against The Venice Beach BID — The News Is Not Good, Friends, Even Though It Seemed Last Month Like It Was Going To Be


I created a page on Archive.Org to collect pleadings from the Okulicks’ case, and you can find it right here. Unfortunately right now I only have the original petition and yesterday’s tentative ruling, since adopted as final. This article from the Times is also useful background.

Yesterday afternoon the final hearing in the Okulick’s lawsuit against the Venice Beach BID took place before Judge James C. Chalfant in Department 85 of the Stanley Mosk Courthouse of the Los Angeles County Superior Court. One of the petitioners’ claims was that BIDs don’t give any special benefits to property owners whose parcels are zoned commercial but are used solely as owner-occupied residential.

Last month, it seems, Chalfant agreed with the petitioners, stating in his tentative ruling at that time that:

The Petition for writ of mandate is granted in part. Only the portion of the assessment directed to properties used by their owner exclusively as their residence is unlawful. A writ shall issue directing a refund of that portion of the assessment and Petitioners are entitled to a declaratory judgment to that effect. In all other respects, the Petition is denied.

However, it seems that the respondents, i.e. the City of Los Angeles and the Venice Beach BID, convinced him to hold off on making this ruling final to allow for another round of briefing just on the specific part where he found in favor of the Okulicks. I don’t have copies of those briefs, but yesterday’s hearing consisted of the oral argument surrounding them. Whatever the City of LA put in its brief did the nasty trick, evidently.

By yesterday Chalfant had changed his mind completely, and nothing that the petitioners’ lawyer, the brave, the honorable Geoffrey T. Stover, could say would sway the judge. Turn the page for the money quote from yesterday’s bad news tentative ruling and a little bit of amateur discussion based on notes I took at the hearing.
Continue reading Judge James Chalfant Issues Final Judgment In Okulick Petition Against The Venice Beach BID — The News Is Not Good, Friends, Even Though It Seemed Last Month Like It Was Going To Be

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Stop LAPD Spying CPRA Case Hearing Set for Tuesday, November 22, 2016 at 1:30 p.m., Stanley Mosk Courthouse Department 85

stop LAPD spying logoLast 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.

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Stop LAPD Spying CPRA Case Trial Setting Conference Continued Until April 7, 2016

slsc.logoPlaintiff 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.

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