Ass'n for L.A. Deputy Sheriffs v. Superior Court of L.A. Cnty., S243855

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Citation447 P.3d 234,251 Cal.Rptr.3d 320,8 Cal.5th 28
Decision Date26 August 2019
Docket NumberS243855
Parties ASSOCIATION FOR LOS ANGELES DEPUTY SHERIFFS, Petitioner, v. The SUPERIOR COURT OF LOS ANGELES COUNTY, Respondent; Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department et al., Real Parties in Interest.

Benedon & Serlin, Douglas G. Benedon, Judith E. Posner ; Green & Shinee, Richard A. Shinee ; The Gibbons Firm, Elizabeth J. Gibbons and Emily B. Suhr for Petitioner.

Stone Busailah, Michael P. Stone, Muna Busailah and Robert Rabe for Riverside Sheriffs’ Association, Los Angeles Police Protective League, Southern California Alliance of Law Enforcement and Los Angeles School Police Association as Amici Curiae on behalf of Petitioner.

Mastagni Holstedt, David P. Mastagni, David E. Mastagni, Isaac S. Stevens ; Berry Wilkinson Law Group and Alison Berry Wilkinson for Peace Officers Research Association and the PORAC Legal Defense Fund as Amici Curiae on behalf of Petitioner.

Frederick Bennett for Respondent.

Liebert Cassidy Whitmore, Geoffrey S. Sheldon, Alex Y. Wong and James E. Oldendorph, Jr., for Real Parties in Interest.

Bartkiewicz, Kronick & Shanahan and Jennifer T. Buckman for League of California Cities as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Real Parties in Interest.

Mark Zahner ; Michael D. Schwartz, Chief Assistant District Attorney (Ventura); Jerry P. Coleman, Special Assistant District Attorney (San Francisco); and Albert C. Locher, Retired Assistant District Attorney (Sacramento) for California District Attorneys Association as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Real Parties in Interest. Peter J. Eliasberg, Melanie R.P. Ochoa ; Bird, Marella, Boxer, Wolpert, Nessim, Drooks, Lincenberg & Rhow, Benjamin N. Gluck, Naeun Rim and Nithin Kumar for ACLU of Southern California, ACLU of Northern California, ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties and Dignity and Power Now as Amici Curiae on behalf of Real Parties in Interest.

Hilary Potashner, Federal Public Defender, and Alyssa D. Bell, Deputy Federal Public Defender, for the Office of the Federal Defender of Los Angeles as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Real Parties in Interest.

Steven Harmon, Public Defender (Riverside) and Laura Arnold, Deputy Public Defender, for California Public Defenders Association and Law Offices of the Public Defender for the County of Riverside as Amici Curiae on behalf of Real Parties in Interest.

Jonathan Abel for Professor Jody D. Armour, Professor W. David Ball, Professor Lara Bazelon, Professor Samantha Buckingham, Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, Professor Gabriel "Jack" Chin, Professor Beth A. Colgan, Professor Sharon Dolovich, Professor Ingrid Eagly, Associate Dean Carrie Hemple, Professor Alex Kreit, Professor Máximo Langer, Professor Laurie Levenson, Associate Dean Justin Levitt, Professor Eric J. Miller, Professor Samuel Pillsbury, Dean L. Song Richardson, Professor Heidi Rummel, Professor Jonathan Simon, Professor Kelly Strader, Professor Katie Tinto, Professor Sherod Thaxton, Professor Ronald Tyler, Professor Rachel E. VanLandingham, Professor Robert Weisberg and Professor Kate Weisburd as Amici Curiae on behalf of Real Parties in Interest.

Alicia Virani and Stephen K. Dunkle for California Attorneys for Criminal Justice as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Real Parties in Interest.

George Gascón, District Attorney (San Francisco) and Allison G. Macbeth, Assistant District Attorney, for San Francisco District Attorney as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Real Parties in Interest.

Xavier Becerra, Attorney General, Edward C. DuMont, State Solicitor General, Aimee Feinberg, Deputy State Solicitor General, Peter D. Halloran and J. Michael Chamberlain, Deputy Attorneys General, for Attorney General as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Real Parties in Interest.

Dennis J. Herrera, City Attorney (San Francisco) and Jeremy M. Goldman, Co-Chief of Appellate Litigation for City and County of San Francisco, by and through the San Francisco Police Department as Amici Curiae on behalf of Real Parties in Interest.

Jeff Adachi, Public Defender (San Francisco), Matt Gonzalez, Chief Attorney, and Dorothy Bishoff, Deputy Public Defender, for San Francisco Public Defender’s Office as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Real Parties in Interest.

Opinion of the Court by Cantil-Sakauye, C. J.

This case concerns the relationship between prosecutors’ constitutional duty to disclose information to criminal defendants and a statutory scheme that restricts prosecutors’ access to some of that information.

A prosecutor in a criminal case must disclose to the defense certain evidence that is favorable to the accused.

( Brady v. Maryland (1963) 373 U.S. 83, 83 S.Ct. 1194, 10 L.Ed.2d 215 ( Brady ).) This duty sometimes requires disclosure of evidence that will impeach a law enforcement officer’s testimony. ( Giglio v. United States (1972) 405 U.S. 150, 154-155, 92 S.Ct. 763, 31 L.Ed.2d 104 ( Giglio ).) Such disclosure may be required even if the prosecutor is not personally aware that the evidence exists. ( Kyles v. Whitley (1995) 514 U.S. 419, 437, 115 S.Ct. 1555, 131 L.Ed.2d 490 ( Kyles ).) Because the duty to disclose may sweep more broadly than the prosecutor’s personal knowledge, the duty carries with it an obligation to "learn of any favorable evidence known to the others acting on the government’s behalf in the case, including the police." ( Ibid. )

The so-called Pitchess statutes, however, restrict a prosecutor’s ability to learn of and disclose certain information regarding law enforcement officers. (See Pitchess v. Superior Court (1974) 11 Cal.3d 531, 113 Cal.Rptr. 897, 522 P.2d 305 ; see also Johnson v. Superior Court (2015) 61 Cal.4th 696, 712-714, 206 Cal.Rptr.3d 606, 377 P.3d 847 ( Johnson ).) Most notably, Penal Code section 832.7 renders confidential certain personnel records and records of citizens’ complaints, as well as information "obtained from" those records. ( Pen. Code, § 832.7, subd. (a) ( section 832.7(a) ).) Upon a motion showing good cause, a litigant may obtain a court’s in camera inspection of the confidential information and, possibly, win the information’s disclosure. But the less reason there is to believe that an officer has engaged in misconduct, the harder it is to show good cause.

In part to address this issue, some law enforcement agencies have created so-called Brady lists. These lists enumerate officers whom the agencies have identified as having potential exculpatory or impeachment information in their personnel files — evidence which may need to be disclosed to the defense under Brady and its progeny. (See Brady , supra , 373 U.S. at p. 87, 83 S.Ct. 1194.) Disclosure of the fact that an officer is on a Brady list both signals that it may be appropriate to file a motion seeking in camera inspection and helps to establish good cause for that inspection. We recently described this Brady -alert practice as "laudabl[e]." ( Johnson , supra , 61 Cal.4th at p. 721, 206 Cal.Rptr.3d 606, 377 P.3d 847.)

Petitioner in this case is the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs. The Association obtained a preliminary injunction preventing the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department from disclosing the identity of deputies on the Department’s Brady list. The injunction included an exception, permitting disclosure to prosecutors when a deputy is a potential witness in a pending prosecution. The Court of Appeal held that the exception is impermissible under the Pitchess statutes. We granted review to decide the following question: "When a law enforcement agency creates an internal Brady list [citation], and a peace officer on that list is a potential witness in a pending criminal prosecution, may the agency disclose to the prosecution (a) the name and identifying number of the officer and (b) that the officer may have relevant exonerating or impeaching material in [that officer’s] confidential personnel file ...?" We conclude that the Pitchess statutes permit such disclosure.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
A. The Brady List

In late 2016, the Association counted among its members approximately 7,800 deputy sheriffs. The Department sent a letter to roughly 300 of those deputies, informing them that a review of "individual employees’ personnel records" had "identified potential exculpatory or impeachment information in your personnel file." Among other things, the letter served to "remind" deputies "about the existence of this material."

According to the letter, "[e]xamples of performance deficiencies" that qualify as potential Brady material "include, but are not limited to, founded administrative investigations involving violations of" any of nearly a dozen sections of the Department’s Manual of Policy and Procedures. Those sections concern:

(1) "Immoral Conduct"; (2) "Bribes, Rewards, Loans, Gifts, Favors"; (3) "Misappropriation of Property"; (4) "Tampering with Evidence"; (5) "False Statements"; (6) "Failure to make Statements and/or Making False Statements During Departmental Internal Investigations"; (7) "Obstructing an Investigation/Influencing a Witness"; (8) "False Information in Records"; (9) "Policy of Equality – Discriminatory Harassment"; (10) "Unreasonable Force"; and (11) "Family Violence." Notwithstanding the letter’s claim that such violations were mere "[e]xamples of performance deficiencies" that might justify inclusion on the Brady list, other materials in the record suggest that the letter was only sent to deputies understood to have violated at least one of those enumerated policies.

The letter further advised deputies that, "in order to comply with our constitutional obligations," the Department is "required to provide the names of employees with potential exculpatory or impeachment material in their personnel file to the District Attorney and other prosecutorial agencies where the employee may be called as a witness." Later correspondence indicated that the deputy’s employee number might also be provided. Consistent with that later correspondence, however, the initial letter stressed that "no...

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