City of Carmel-By-The-Sea v. Young, CARMEL-BY-THE-SE

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Citation2 Cal.3d 259,85 Cal.Rptr. 1,466 P.2d 225
Docket NumberCARMEL-BY-THE-SE,P,S.F. 22728
Parties, 466 P.2d 225, 37 A.L.R.3d 1313 CITY OFlaintiff and Appellant, v. Bertram N. YOUNG, as District Attorney, etc., Defendant and Respondent.
Decision Date26 March 1970

Grayson Price, City Atty (Chico), Vern B. Thomas, City Atty. (Escondido), Richard J. Moore, County Counsel (Alameda), Thomas J. Fennone, Deputy County Counsel, Douglas J. Maloney, County Counsel (Marin), Keith C. Sorenson, Dist. Atty. (San Mateo), Milton Goldinger, County Counsel (Solano), Rutan & Tucker, H. Rodger Howell, James E. Erickson and Bruce D. Wallace, Santa Ana, as amici curiae on behalf of plaintiff and appellant.

William H. Stoffers, County Counsel, and Henry I. Jorgensen, Deputy County Counsel, for defendant and respondent.

Thomas C. Lynch, Atty. Gen., Charles A. Barrett, Asst. Atty. Gen., George J. Roth, Deputy Atty. Gen., George H. Murphy, Legislative Counsel, Clinton J. DeWitt, Carl M. Arnold, John A. Corzine and James Reichle, Deputy Legislative Counsel, as amici curiae.

BURKE, Justice.

In this declaratory relief suit attacking the constitutional validity of a financial interests public disclosure statute enacted in 1969 and by its terms applying to a myriad of public officers and employees, the trial court rendered judgment decreeing that the statute is constitutional. Plaintiff appeals.

The public's right to know of matters which might bring about a conflict of interest between the public employment and the private financial interests of those holding public office is a laudable and proper legislative concern and purpose. Statutory history in this state is replete with examples of enactments designed to disclose, avoid or eliminate such conflicts. According to our count, there can presently be found in the Constitution and statutes of California more than 85 separate provisions, more fully discussed hereinafter, concerning conflicts of interests of public officers and employees. 1 Additionally, it is a matter of common knowledge that many local ordinances and charter provisions likewise contain regulations on the subject. However, despite our duty and desire to uphold lawful legislative enactments whenever possible, we are convinced that the attempted regulation now before us undertakes an overbroad intrusion into the right of privacy and thereby invalidly restricts the right to seek or hold public office or employment. Accordingly, the statute must fall and the judgment of the trial court must be reversed.

Those provisions of the disclosure statute which are here involved, found in sections 3600 through 3704 and comprising part of a new Division 4.5 to Title One of the Government Code, 2 are set out in an appendix hereto. The statute directs that 'every public officer' (§ 3700) and 'each candidate' (§ 3702) for state or local public office, as those terms are defined in the statute (§§ 3605, 3601, 3753), 'shall file, as a public record, a statement describing the nature and extent of his investments' and those 'owned by either spouse or by a minor child thereof,' if 'such investment is in excess of * * * ($10,000) in value at the time of the statement' (§ 3700), but excepting 'a home or (real) property used primarily for personal or recreational purposes.' (§ 3603.) Violation of the statute is declared to be a misdemeanor, and knowing violation a felony. (§ 3704.)

Plaintiff city alleges and defendant admits that the following officers and officials of plaintiff will resign rather than be subjected to what they contend is an unconstitutional invasion of their privacy by requiring them to file such a statement of assets disclosing their personal financial affairs and those of their spouses and children: Three of the five members of the city council, four of the seven members of the planning commission, two of the five members of the forestry commission, three of the five members of the library board of trustees, one department head, three cultural commissioners. Plaintiff also alleges that resignation of the described officers will have a crippling effect upon the affairs of municipal government, which could find itself unable to act due to the impossibility of convening a quorum of the various governmental bodies. The declaratory relief here sought by the city on the ground of unconstitutionality of the statute is a proper remedy. (Abbott v. City of Los Angeles (1960) 53 Cal.2d 674, 678, fn. 2, 3 Cal.Rptr. 158, 349 P.2d 974, 82 A.L.R.2d 385, and authorities cited.)

The record indicates that many other public agencies are also faced with impending resignations of numerous officers and employees who are unwilling to make public disclosure of the magnitude provided The familiar rule is that a 'governmental purpose to control or prevent activities constitutionally subject to state regulation may not be achieved by means which sweep unnecessarily broadly and thereby invade the area of protected freedoms.' (NAACP v. Alabama (1964) 377 U.S. 288, 307, 84 S.Ct. 1302, 1314, 12 L.Ed.2d 325; Griswold v. State of Connecticut (1965) 381 U.S. 479, 485, 85 S.Ct. 1678, 1682, 14 L.Ed.2d 510.) '(E)ven though the governmental purpose by legitimate and substantial, that purpose cannot be pursued by means that broadly stifle fundamental personal liberties when the end can be more narrowly achieved.' (Shelton v. Tucker (1960) 364 U.S. 479, 488, 81 S.Ct. 247, 252, 5 L.Ed.2d 231.) 'Precision of regulation is required so that the exercise of our most precious freedoms will not be unduly curtailed except to the extent necessitated by the legitimate governmental objective. (Citations.)' (Vogel v. County of Los Angeles (1967) 68 Cal.2d 18, 22, 64 Cal.Rptr. 409, 411, 434 P.2d 961, 963.)

by the statute, of private financial affairs. Its effect on potential candidates and employees is surmised to be similarly discouraging. We are thus presented with a question of constitutional magnitude affecting numerous public officials at every level of government which under exigent circumstances is now brought to our attention by two public officials from the [466 P.2d 228] County of Monterey. Other public officials have indicated their concern by filing extensive amici curiae briefs.

This court has recognized that 'The freedom of the individual to participate in political activity is a fundamental principle of a democratic society and is the premise upon which our form of government is based. Our state Constitution declares, 'All political power is inherent in the people' (citation), and the First Amendment of the federal Constitution establishes the right of every citizen to engage in political expression and association. (Citations.) In this state both statutes and judicial decisions have recognized the fundamental right of citizens generally not only to vote but also to hold office (citations), and the fundamental right of employees in general to engage in political activity without interference by employers (citations).' (Fort v. Civil Service Commission (1964) 61 Cal.2d 331, 334--335, 38 Cal.Rptr. 625, 627, 392 P.2d 385, 387.)

In the cited case Fort, who was director of a county alcoholism treatment center, acted as chairman of a speakers' bureau for a local campaign committee for a gubernatorial candidate. He was dismissed from his county position for violation of a charter provision that no civil service officer or employee shall 'take any part in * * * any political campaign or election, * * * other than to cast his vote or to privately express his opinion.' We held that the charter provision was overly broad, and ordered him reinstated.

Our opinion emphasized (pp. 337--338 of 61 Cal.2d p. 629 of 38 Cal.Rptr., p. 389 of 392 P.2d) that 'The United States Supreme Court and this court have * * * made it clear in recent decisions that, even if a compelling state purpose is present, the restriction must be drawn with narrow specificity. (Citations.) * * * The principles set forth in the recent decisions do not admit of wholesale restrictions on political activities merely because the persons affected are public employees, particularly when it is considered that there are millions of such persons. (Fn. omitted.) It must appear that restrictions imposed by a governmental entity are not broader than are required to preserve the efficiency and integrity of its public service.'

Kinnear v. City etc. of San Francisco (1964) 61 Cal.2d 341, 38 Cal.Rptr. 631, 392 P.2d 391, holds that the principles set forth in Fort, Supra, 61 Cal.2d 331, 38 Cal.Rptr. 625, 392 P.2d 385, required reinstatement of a civil service deputy sheriff who had filed a declaration of candidacy for the office of sheriff and had then been notified of automatic forfeiture of office under a San Francisco charter provision forfeiting Fort and Kinnear were followed by Bagley (Bagley v. Washington Township Hospital Dist. (1966) 65 Cal.2d 499, 55 Cal.Rptr. 401, 421 P.2d 409), in which plaintiff nurse's aide employed by a hospital district having no civil service or merit system in force was dismissed after being notified that her off-duty participation in a recall campaign aimed at certain members of the district board of directors was unlawful and constituted grounds for dismissal under Government Code, section 3205. That section provided in pertinent part that no employee of a local agency 'shall take an active part in any campaign for or against any candidate, except himself, for an office of such local agency, or for or against any ballot measure relating to the recall of any elected official of the local agency.' Declaring the restraints on plaintiff's political activity unconstitutional, this court reaffirmed in the following language the principles declared in Fort, surpa:

the office of an appointive officer or employee who became a candidate for election to any public office. Our opinion...

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