Copley Press, Inc. v. Superior Court, No. S128603.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Writing for the CourtChin
Citation48 Cal.Rptr.3d 183,39 Cal.4th 1272,141 P.3d 288
Decision Date31 August 2006
Docket NumberNo. S128603.
PartiesThe COPLEY PRESS, INC., Petitioner, v. The SUPERIOR COURT of San Diego County, Respondent; County of San Diego et al., Real Parties in Interest.
48 Cal.Rptr.3d 183
39 Cal.4th 1272
141 P.3d 288
The COPLEY PRESS, INC., Petitioner,
v.
The SUPERIOR COURT of San Diego County, Respondent;
County of San Diego et al., Real Parties in Interest.
No. S128603.
Supreme Court of California.
August 31, 2006.

[48 Cal.Rptr.3d 185]

Harold W. Fuson, Jr., Judith L. Fanshaw, La Jolla, Scott A. Wahrenbrock; Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton, Guylyn R. Cummins, San Diego, Robert J. Stumpf, San Francisco, Gary L. Bostwick and Jean-Paul Jassy, Los Angeles, for Petitioner.

Casey Gwinn, City Attorney (San Diego), Anita M. Noone, Assistant City Attorney, and James M. Chapin Deputy City Attorney, for City of San Diego and City of San Diego Civil Service Commission as Amici Curiae on behalf of Petitioner.

[48 Cal.Rptr.3d 186]

Law Offices of Amitai Schwartz, Amitai Schwartz, Emeryville; Alan L. Schlosser, Mark Schlosberg, San Francisco; Peter Eliasberg, Los Angeles; Jordan C. Budd, San Diego, Elvira Cacciavillani and David Blair-Loy for the ACLU Foundation of Northern California, the ACLU Foundation of Southern California and the ACLU Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties as Amici Curiae on behalf of Petitioner.

Davis Wright Tremaine, Kelli Sager, Alonzo Wickers IV, Susan E. Seager, Los Angeles, Thomas R. Burke, San Francisco; David Tomlin; Russell F. Coleman, David S. Starr; Charles J. Glasser, Jr.; Peter Scheer; Thomas W. Newton, James W. Ewert; Terry Francke; Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, James E. Grossberg; Eve Burton, Jonathan R. Donnellan; Karlene W. Goller, Los Angeles; Stephen J. Burns, Sacramento; DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary, James M. Chadwick, San Francisco; David McCraw; Lucy A. Dalglish; Loeb & Loeb and Douglas E. Mirell, Los Angeles, for Los Angeles Times Communications LLC, Freedom Communications, Inc., dba The Orange County Register, The Hearst Corporation, The Associated Press, The Bakersfield Californian, The New York Times Company, The McClatchy Company, Belo Corp., The San Jose Mercury News, Inc., Bloomberg L.P., California Newspaper Publishers Association, Society of Professional Journalists, Greater Los Angeles Chapter, The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, California First Amendment Coalition, Californians Aware and Professor Erwin Chemerinsky as Amici Curiae on behalf of Petitioner.

Elise S. Rose, Sacramento, and Bruce A. Mongross for California State Personnel Board as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Petitioner.

No appearance for Respondent.

John J. Sansone, County Counsel, and William H. Songer, Deputy County Counsel, for Real Parties in Interest County of San Diego and San Diego County Civil Service Commission.

Bobbitt & Pinckard, Everett L. Bobbitt, Richard L. Pinckard, San Diego, Bradley M. Fields and Julie S. Buechler, San Diego, for Real Parties in Interest San Diego Sheriffs' Association and San Diego Police Officers' Association.

Carroll, Burdick & McDonough, Gary M. Messing, Sacramento; Ivey, Smith & Ramirez and Jean-Claude André for Peace Officers Research Association of California's Legal Defense Fund as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Real Parties in Interests San Diego Sheriffs' Association and San Diego Police Officers' Association.

CHIN, J.


We granted review in this case to consider the extent, if any, to which the California Public Records Act (CPRA or Act) (Gov.Code, § 6250 et seq.) requires disclosure to a newspaper publisher of records of the County of San Diego Civil Service Commission (Commission) relating to a peace officer's administrative appeal of a disciplinary matter. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court erred in denying the disclosure request in its entirety, and ordered the Commission to disclose the requested records, including the name of the peace officer, redacted only to exclude certain written material in the personnel file maintained by the officer's "employing agency," as that term is used in Penal Code section 832.8,1 and oral testimony that is a recitation from that material. We find that the Court of Appeal read the term "employing agency" too narrowly.

48 Cal.Rptr.3d 187

We therefore reverse the Court of Appeal's judgment.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

In January 2003, The Copley Press, Inc. (Copley), which publishes the San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper, learned that the Commission had scheduled a closed hearing in case No.2003-0003, in which a deputy sheriff of San Diego County (sometimes hereafter referred to as County) was appealing from a termination notice. Copley requested access to the hearing, but the Commission denied the request. After the appeal's completion, Copley filed several CPRA requests with the Commission asking for disclosure of any documents filed with, submitted to, or created by the Commission concerning the appeal (including its findings or decision) and any tape recordings of the hearing. The Commission withheld most of its records, including the deputy's name, asserting disclosure exemptions under Government Code section 6254, subdivisions (c) and (k).

Copley then filed in the superior court a petition for a writ of mandate and complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief, seeking access to the remaining records and a declaration that the Commission must hold public hearings unless closure is otherwise justified by law. With the court's permission, the San Diego Police Officers Association and the San Diego County Sheriffs' Association (interveners) intervened. On May 14, 2003, the trial court denied relief, citing San Diego Police Officers' Assn. v. City of San Diego Civil Service Com. (2002) 104 Cal.App.4th 275, 128 Cal.Rptr.2d 248 (SDPOA) and sections 832.7 and 832.8.

Shortly after the trial court filed its decision, Copley filed two more CPRA requests with the Commission asking for all documents regarding the appeal "in unredacted form."2 In response, the Commission provided a number of additional documents, including the termination order— which cited the grounds for discipline and outlined the facts supporting each ground—the hearing officer's recommendation that the Commission accept a stipulation disposing of the appeal, and the minutes of the meeting during which the Commission approved the recommendation. According to those documents, the termination order was based on the deputy's failure to arrest a suspect in a domestic violence incident despite having probable cause to do so, failure to prepare a written report documenting the incident, and dishonesty in falsely indicating in the patrol log that the victim bore no signs of injury and the suspect was "gone on arrival." In the stipulation, the deputy voluntarily resigned and withdrew the appeal, and the sheriff's department withdrew the termination action and agreed to change the deputy's exit status to "terminated— resignation by mutual consent" and to "line out" the untruthfulness charge.

Unsatisfied, Copley filed a petition for writ of mandate with the Court of Appeal seeking relief from the trial court's order of May 14, 2003. It asked for an order requiring the Commission to disclose the deputy's name and all documents, evidence, and audiotapes from the appeal. It also requested a declaration that the Commission's denial of access to the appeal hearing and its failure to disclose all hearing materials were unlawful, and an injunction precluding future denials of access.

The Court of Appeal granted partial relief. Regarding disclosure of the Commission's

48 Cal.Rptr.3d 188

records, the court first held that the confidentiality provisions of Penal Code section 832.7 "should be imported into the CPRA through" Government Code section 6254, subdivision (k), which provides that the CPRA does not require disclosure of "[r]ecords, the disclosure of which is exempted or prohibited pursuant to federal or state law, including, but not limited to, provisions of the Evidence Code relating to privilege." The Court of Appeal next reasoned that Penal Code section 832.7's "confidentiality provision has a fundamental limitation [under Penal Code section 832.8]: it applies only to files maintained by the employing agency of the peace officer," i.e., "written material maintained in the peace officer's personnel file or oral testimony that is a recitation from material in that file." Thus, it "does not apply to information about a peace officer the source of which is other than the employing agency's file maintained under the individual's name, even if that information is duplicated in that file." It does not apply to "[t]estimony of a percipient witness to events, or from documents not maintained in the personnel file ... even though that information may be identical to or duplicative of information in the personnel file." It also does not apply to material from the appeal that is "added to the peace officer's file maintained by the employing agency." The Court of Appeal thus concluded that insofar as the Commission's records "are not documents from a personnel file or recited from documents in a personnel file," they "are outside the definitional limitations applicable to [Penal Code] section 832.7, [and] a CPRA request for those records may not be denied under [Government Code section 6254,] subdivision (k)'s exemption for records `the disclosure of which is exempted or prohibited pursuant to' section 832.7."

The Court of Appeal applied "[a] similar rationale" to reject the Commission's reliance on Government Code section 6254, subdivision (c), which exempts from disclosure "[p]ersonnel, medical, or similar files, the disclosure of which would constitute an unwarranted invasion of privacy." This provision, the Court of Appeal held, applies only to information that "is within the definitional limitation of Penal Code section 832.8," i.e., that it be part of a "file maintained ... by [the officer's] employing agency." Thus, the Court of Appeal held that the Commission had "erred by relying on [Government Code] section 6254, subdivisions (c) and (k) to reject Copley's CPRA request in its...

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  • People v. Superior Court of San Francisco Cnty., A140767
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • August 11, 2014
    ...proceeding except by discovery pursuant to Sections 1043 and 1046 of the Evidence Code"].)In Copley Press, Inc. v. Superior Court (2006) 39 Cal.4th 1272, 1279, 48 Cal.Rptr.3d 183, 141 P.3d 288 ( Copley ), the California Supreme Court held that the word "confidential" in Section 832.7(a) has......
  • Riverside Cnty. Sheriff's Dep't v. Stiglitz, Nos. E052729
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • September 28, 2012
    ...to peace officer personnel records regardless of the context in which they are sought. (Copley Press, Inc. v. Superior Court (2006) 39 Cal.4th 1272, 1284–1286, 48 Cal.Rptr.3d 183, 141 P.3d 288.) In that case, a newspaper sought to obtain records from a Government Code section 3304(b) hearin......
  • County of Santa Clara v. Superior Court of Santa Clara County, No. H031658.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • February 5, 2009
    ...2. Exemptions (6) "The right of access to public records under the CPRA is not absolute." (Copley Press, Inc. v. Superior Court (2006) 39 Cal.4th 1272, 1282 [48 Cal.Rptr.3d 183, 141 P.3d 288].) The CPRA "states a number of exemptions that permit government agencies to refuse to disclose cer......
  • People v. Pokovich, No. S127176.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • August 31, 2006
    ...is no indication of any legislative intent that any result of this inquiry into a wholly collateral matter be used in determining 48 Cal.Rptr.3d 183 the issue of guilt." (Tarantino, at p. 469, 122 Cal.Rptr. 61, italics These statutory provisions are intended to vindicate the Legislature's c......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
136 cases
  • People v. Superior Court of San Francisco Cnty., A140767
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • August 11, 2014
    ...proceeding except by discovery pursuant to Sections 1043 and 1046 of the Evidence Code"].)In Copley Press, Inc. v. Superior Court (2006) 39 Cal.4th 1272, 1279, 48 Cal.Rptr.3d 183, 141 P.3d 288 ( Copley ), the California Supreme Court held that the word "confidential" in Section 832.7(a) has......
  • Riverside Cnty. Sheriff's Dep't v. Stiglitz, Nos. E052729
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • September 28, 2012
    ...to peace officer personnel records regardless of the context in which they are sought. (Copley Press, Inc. v. Superior Court (2006) 39 Cal.4th 1272, 1284–1286, 48 Cal.Rptr.3d 183, 141 P.3d 288.) In that case, a newspaper sought to obtain records from a Government Code section 3304(b) hearin......
  • County of Santa Clara v. Superior Court of Santa Clara County, No. H031658.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • February 5, 2009
    ...2. Exemptions (6) "The right of access to public records under the CPRA is not absolute." (Copley Press, Inc. v. Superior Court (2006) 39 Cal.4th 1272, 1282 [48 Cal.Rptr.3d 183, 141 P.3d 288].) The CPRA "states a number of exemptions that permit government agencies to refuse to disclose cer......
  • People v. Pokovich, No. S127176.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • August 31, 2006
    ...is no indication of any legislative intent that any result of this inquiry into a wholly collateral matter be used in determining 48 Cal.Rptr.3d 183 the issue of guilt." (Tarantino, at p. 469, 122 Cal.Rptr. 61, italics These statutory provisions are intended to vindicate the Legislature's c......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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