Pitchess v. Superior Court

Decision Date23 May 1974
Citation11 Cal.3d 531,522 P.2d 305,113 Cal.Rptr. 897
Parties, 522 P.2d 305 Peter J. PITCHESS, as Sheriff, etc., Petitioner, v. The SUPERIOR COURT OF LOS ANGELES COUNTY, Respondent; Caesar ECHEVERIA, Real Party in Interest. L.A. 30224.
CourtCalifornia Supreme Court

John H. Larson, County Counsel, Robert C. Lynch, Frederick R. Bennett and Jeffrey H. Nelson, Deputy County Counsel, Los Angeles, for petitioner.

Thomas M. O'Connor, City Atty. (City and County of San Francisco), Philip S. Ward, Deputy City Atty., Edward A. Goggin, City Atty. (Oakland), Mark B. Shragge, Deputy City Atty., Royce A. Fincher, Jr., San Jose, Frank G. Carrington, Wayne W. Schmidt, Evanston, Ill., Paul Keller, Glen R. Murphy, Gaithersburg, Md., and Jeremiah F. O'Shea, Jr., South San Francisco, as amici curiae on behalf of petitioner.

No appearance for respondent.

Miguel F. Garcia, Pico Rivera, for real party in interest.

Richard S. Buckley, Public Defender, Dennis A. Fischer and Edward A. Rucker, Deputy Public Defender, Andrew K. Dolan, Leon Letwin, Los Angeles, and Richard A. Wasserstrom, Santa Monica, as amici curiae on behalf of real party in interest.

MOSK, Justice.

Petitioner, Sheriff of Los Angeles County, seeks a writ of mandate to compel respondent superior court to quash its subpoena duces tecum requiring the production of certain documents sought by Caesar Echeveria, real party in interest and defendant in a pending trial for multiple counts of battery (Pen.Code, §§ 242, 243). Petitioner contends the discovery at issue should not have been granted because the motion to discover is procedurally defective and the requested information is not subject to discovery. We conclude the trial court did not abuse its discretion in ordering discovery and therefore deny the writ.

Defendant, together with others, was charged in March 1972 with committing battery against four deputy sheriffs. Soon thereafter one charge was dismissed, and defendant now awaits trial on the remaining three. Defendant asserts he intends at trial to establish that he acted in self-defense in response to the use of excessive force by the deputy sheriffs. (People v. Curtis (1969) 70 Cal.2d 347, 356, 74 Cal.Rptr. 713, 450 P.2d 33.) To that end, he sought to discover evidence of the complaining witnesses' propensity for violence. Specifically, he moved for the production of records of several investigations conducted by the administrative services bureau, a sheriff's department internal unit which inquires into citizen complaints of official misconduct. The investigations involved accusations by various members of the public that the deputies allegedly attacked had themselves used excessive force on previous occasions. The motion was granted by the trial court, and the prosecution was ordered to secure the records from the sheriff. The commander of the administrative services bureau, however, refused to cooperate, whereupon defendant obtained a subpoena duces tecum directing the sheriff to produce the information. The sheriff declined to do so, and unsuccessfully moved to quash the subpoena. Now he seeks mandate.

At the threshold we observe that the case comes to us by a somewhat convoluted route. The trial court ordered the prosecution to obtain the records from the sheriff. When the sheriff refused to produce the information, the prosecutor should have invoked process of the court; instead, the burden of so moving was imposed upon the defendant, here the real party in interest. Nevertheless the trial court found the burden had been met and therefore issued a subpoena duces tecum, the sheriff moved to quash, and the motion was denied. Thus the matter is now in a justiciable posture on the sheriff's request for mandate. On the motion to quash, and petition for mandate after denial of the motion, the burden shifts to the moving party, the sheriff, to demonstrate an abuse of discretion by the trial court. As will appear we find he has not met that burden.

Petitioner initially urges that the affidavits in support of the subpoena duces tecum are insufficient to justify discovery because they fail to demonstrate 'good cause' with adequate specificity as required by Code of Civil Procedure sections 1985 and 2036. 1 The contention is premis ed on the erroneous assumption that the statutory provisions governing discovery in civil actions apply to criminal proceedings.

Unlike the statutory development of civil discovery in California, the right of an accused to seek discovery in the course of preparing his defense to a criminal prosecution is a judicially created doctrine evoling in the absence of guiding legislation. (Ballard v. Superior Court (1966) 64 Cal.2d 159, 176, fn. 12, 49 Cal.Rptr. 302, 410 P.2d 838; Louisell & Wally, Modern Cal. Discovery (2d ed. 1972) pp. 847--848.) A defendant's motion to discover is addressed solely to the sound discretion of the trial court, which has inherent power to order discovery when the interests of justice so demand. (Hill v. Superior Court (1974) 10 Cal.3d 812, 816, 112 Cal.Rptr. 257, 518 P.2d 1353; People v. Terry (1962) 57 Cal.2d 538, 560--561, 21 Cal.Rptr. 185, 370 P.2d 985; Powell v. Superior Court (1957) 48 Cal.2d 704, 708, 312 P.2d 698; Vetter v. Superior Court (1961) 189 Cal.App.2d 132, 134, 10 Cal.Rptr. 890.) Allowing an accused the right to discover is based on the fundamental proposition that he is entitled to a fair trial and an intelligent defense in light of all relevant and reasonably accessible information. (Hill v. Superior Court (1974) supra, 10 Cal.3d at p. 816, 112 Cal.Rptr. 257, 518 P.2d 1353; Cash v. Superior Court (1959) 53 Cal.2d 72, 75, 346 P.2d 407; Powell v. Superior Court (1957) supra, 48 Cal.2d at pp. 707, 709, 312 P.2d 698; People v. Riser (1956) 47 Cal.2d 566, 586, 305 P.2d 1; Louisell & Wally, Modern Cal. Discovery (2d ed. 1972) supra, pp. 881--882.)

In accordance with these principles, it has long been held that civil discovery procedure has no relevance to criminal prosecutions. (Powell v. Superior Court (1957) supra, 48 Cal.2d 704, 707--708, 312 P.2d 698; Yannacone v. Municipal Court (1963) 222 Cal.App.2d 72, 74--75, 34 Cal.Rptr. 838; Clark v. Superior Court (1961) 190 Cal.App.2d 739, 742--743, 12 Cal.Rptr. 191; People v. Wilkins (1955) 135 Cal.App.2d 371, 377--378, 287 P.2d 555; People v. Ratten (1940) 39 Cal.App.2d 267, 271, 102 P.2d 1097; Gonzales v. Superior Court (1935) 3 Cal.2d 260, 263, 44 P.2d 320.) Chief Justice Traynor reaffirmed this dichotomy in Shively v. Stewart (1966) 65 Cal.2d 475, 479, 55 Cal.Rptr. 217, 220, 421 P.2d 65, 68, when he wrote: 'We are committed to the wisdom of discovery, by statute in civil cases (Code Civ.Proc., §§ 2016--2036), and by common law in criminal cases.' Legislative silence on criminal discovery, he noted, means that it has left to the courts the adaptation of common law concepts. More recently this court in Hill unequivocally declared that criminal discovery is an inherent power of the court 'in the absence of legislation' (10 Cal.3d at p. 816, 112 Cal.Rptr. 257, 518 P.2d 1353). While civil discovery in general is as old as our Code of Civil Procedure, Witkin observes that the 'California law of discovery in criminal cases is a creation of the courts dating back only a few years.' (Witkin, Cal. Criminal Procedure (1963) p. 265.)

Nothing in the legislative history of the current version of the civil discovery act (Code Civ.Proc. § 2016 et seq.) discloses an intention to expand its province to incorporate criminal matters. (See Committee on Administration of Justice, Report on Discovery (1956) 31 State Bar J., 204--209, 227; Comment, Depositions, Proceedings to Perpetuate Testimony, Interrogatories to Parties: The Federal Rules and the California Law (1956) 44 Cal.L.Rev. 909.) Indeed, civil discovery in California is now virtually co-extensive with the federal practice, which clearly does not embrace criminal proceedings. (See Fed.Rules Crim.Proc.)

Were a court to require strict adherence to the provisions of Code of Civil Procedure sections 1985 and 2036, subdivision (a), it is likely that Fifth Amendment problems would develop in many instances. Therefore, in contrast to the formal requirements for civil discovery, an accused in a criminal prosecution may compel discovery by demonstrating that the requested information will facilitate the ascertainment of the facts and a fair trial. (Cash v. Superior Court (1959) supra, 53 Cal.2d 72, 75, 346 P.2d 407; Powell v. Superior Court (1957) supra, 48 Cal.2d 704, 707, 312 P.2d 698.) The requisite showing may be satisfied by general allegations which establish some cause for discovery other than 'a mere desire for the benefit of all information which has been obtained by the People in their investigation of the crime.' (People v. Cooper (1960) 53 Cal.2d 755, 770, 3 Cal.Rptr. 148, 157, 349 P.2d 964, 973; see also Joe Z. v. Superior Court (1970) 3 Cal.3d 797, 804, 91 Cal.Rptr. 594, 478 P.2d 26; Ballard v. Superior Court (1966) supra, 64 Cal.2d 159, 167, 49 Cal.Rptr. 302, 410 P.2d 838; People v. Terry (1962) 57 Cal.2d 538, 561, 21 Cal.Rptr. 185, 370 P.2d 985; People v. Lane (1961) 56 Cal.2d 773, 785--786, 16 Cal.Rptr. 801, 366 P.2d 57; People v. Valdez (1962) 203 Cal.App.2d 559, 565, 21 Cal.Rptr. 764; Louisell & Wally, Modern Cal. Discovery (2d ed. 1972) supra, pp. 883--886.)

In the case at bar, the affidavits filed by defendant are clearly sufficient to justify discovery under the foregoing standard. In the affidavits defendant indicates that two named persons who filed complaints concerning the deputy sheriffs here involved are unavailable for interview. Accordingly, their prior statements to the sheriff's investigators are necessary for effective cross-examination of the deputies at trial. (People v. Shipp (1963) 59 Cal.2d 845, 849, 31 Cal.Rptr. 457, 382 P.2d 577.) Defendant further states that two additional named witnesses who had previously reported misconduct on the part of the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
2727 cases
  • Facebook, Inc. v. Superior Court of San Diego Cnty.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • September 26, 2017
    ...from a third party witness is a matter that the parties can address with the trial court. (See Pitchess v. Superior Court (1974) 11 Cal.3d 531, 535, 113 Cal.Rptr. 897, 522 P.2d 305 ["[T]he right of an accused to seek discovery in the course of preparing his defense to a criminal prosecution......
  • Facebook, Inc. v. Superior Court of San Diego Cnty.
    • United States
    • California Supreme Court
    • August 13, 2020
    ...statutory requirement of a " ‘good cause’ " affidavit before such a subpoena may be issued. ( Pitchess v. Superior Court (1974) 11 Cal.3d 531, 535, 113 Cal.Rptr. 897, 522 P.2d 305 ( Pitchess ); City of Woodlake v. Tulare County Grand Jury (2011) 197 Cal.App.4th 1293, 1301, 129 Cal.Rptr.3d 2......
  • People v. Melton
    • United States
    • California Supreme Court
    • March 3, 1988
    ...p. 652, 117 Cal.Rptr. 9, 527 P.2d 361; see also, e.g., People v. Nation (1980) 26 Cal.3d 169, 176, 161 Cal.Rptr. 299, 604 P.2d 1051.) In Pitchess, supra, this court concluded that where a peace officer is the alleged victim of a criminal battery, and the defendant asserts he acted in self-d......
  • Ass'n for L. A. Deputy Sheriffs v. Superior Court of Cal. ex rel. the Cnty. of L. A.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • July 11, 2017
    ...115 S.Ct. 1555, 131 L.Ed.2d 490 .)Eleven years after Brady , the California Supreme Court, in Pitchess v. Superior Court (1974) 11 Cal.3d 531, 537, 113 Cal.Rptr. 897, 522 P.2d 305 ( Pitchess ), held that under certain circumstances, and upon an adequate showing, a criminal defendant may d......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
13 books & journal articles
  • Table of cases
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books California Objections
    • March 29, 2023
    ...11:10 Pistorius v. Prudential Insurance Co. (1981) 123 Cal. App. 3d 541, 176 Cal. Rptr. 660, §11:10 Pitchess v. Superior Court (1974) 11 Cal. 3d 531, 113 Cal. Rptr. 897, §§10:160, 20:70 Pittman v. Boiven (1967) 249 Cal. App. 2d 207, 57 Cal. Rptr. 319, §22:130 Pitts, People v. (1990) 223 Cal......
  • Discovery and investigation
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Attacking and Defending Drunk Driving Tests
    • May 5, 2021
    ...X. This motion for discovery is commonly referred in California as a Pitchess motion, after the case Pitchess v. Superior Court (1974) 11 Cal.3d 531, which recognized a defendant’s right to seek discovery of information in police o൶cer personnel iles. II. THE STANDARD OF REVIEW The tension ......
  • Table of cases
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books California Drunk Driving Law - Volume 1-2 Appendices
    • March 30, 2022
    ...1120, §5:100.3 Piscitelli v. Friedenberg (2001) 87 Cal.App.4th 953, 972, 105 Cal.Rptr.2d 88, §9:28.2 Pitchess v. Superior Court (1974) 11 Cal.3d 531, §§5:52.6, 5:61, 5:100, 5:100.2, 5:100.3, 5:100.7 Plumbing, etc. v. Quillin, 64 Cal.App.3d 215 (1976), §12:40.1 Plumbing etc. Employers Counci......
  • Discovery
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books California Drunk Driving Law - Volume 1-2 Volume 1
    • March 30, 2022
    ...ordering discovery over prosecution claims of confidentiality and privilege is Pitchess v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County (1974) 11 Cal.3d 531, which permitted disclosure of police personnel records after in-camera review by the court. In re Sergio M . (1993) 13 Cal.App.4th 809, the c......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
5 provisions
  • Chapter 131, AB 1754 – Maintenance of the codes
    • United States
    • California Session Laws
    • January 1, 2023
    ...admissibility of personnel records pursuant to subdivision (a), which codifies the court decision in Pitchess v. Superior Court (1974) 11 Cal.3d 531. (i) Nothing in this chapter is intended to limit the public's right of access as provided for in Long Beach Police Officers Association v. Ci......
  • Chapter 28, SB 1380 – Maintenance of the codes
    • United States
    • California Session Laws
    • January 1, 2022
    ...admissibility of personnel records pursuant to subdivision (a), which codifies the court decision in Pitchess v. Superior Court (1974) 11 Cal.3d 531. (i) Nothing in this chapter is intended to limit the public's right of access as provided for in Long Beach Police Officers Association v. Ci......
  • Chapter 47, AB 134 – Public safety trailer bill
    • United States
    • California Session Laws
    • January 1, 2023
    ...admissibility of personnel records pursuant to subdivision (a), which codifies the court decision in Pitchess v. Superior Court (1974) 11 Cal.3d 531. (i) Nothing in this chapter is intended to limit the public's right of access as provided for in Long Beach Police Officers Association v. Ci......
  • Chapter 988, SB 1421 – Peace officers: release of records
    • United States
    • California Session Laws
    • January 1, 2018
    ...admissibility of personnel records pursuant to subdivision (a), which codifies the court decision in Pitchess v. Superior Court (1974) 11 Cal.3d 531. (i) Nothing in this chapter is intended to limit the public's right of access as provided for in Long Beach Police Officers Association v. Ci......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT