Second California Appeals Court Refuses To Review Police Unions' Challenge Of State Public Records Law
from the best-part-of-bashing-your-head-against-the-wall-is-when-you-stop dept
California law enforcement’s losing streak continues. Since the new state law went into effect at the beginning of the year, California police unions have been battling the new transparency, claiming the public records law does not apply to historical records of police misconduct or use of force.
So far, the unions are finding no one who agrees with them. The law’s author says the law is retroactive. So have a couple of state courts. The only person siding with unions on the retroactivity issue is the state’s top cop, Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
The state’s Supreme Court has turned down two requests by law enforcement unions to step in and clear up the retroactivity question. In both cases, it rejected the petition without comment. Now, a second state appellate court has refused to review a lower level decision finding the state’s new law applies to old misconduct records.
Appellate judges found no reason to consider that Superior Court Judge Charles Treat’s Feb. 8 decision that the state’s new police transparency law, Senate Bill 1421, covered past years would be overturned on appeal and declined to hear the case. A stay on the release of records will end on March 19 unless the unions appeal to the state Supreme Court.
The unions will undoubtedly appeal. But it likely won’t make any difference. The two rejections by the state Supreme Court include a petition by one of the state’s sheriff’s unions, which filed its petition right after the state court lifted the temporary injunction. This rejection, however, came with a comment from the appeals court — one that indicates this will all end in tears (and released records).
“For the reasons stated by the trial court, appellants’ argument is without merit,” the court’s order says.
The argument unions are pushing is a non-starter. At best, it’s just delaying the inevitable. And the stance the state’s unions are taking isn’t even directly aligned with the departments whose employees they represent. Some law enforcement agencies are already turning over documents to records requesters without making them jump through litigation hoops or wait for a final call from the state’s top court.
Sooner or later, the inevitable conclusion will arrive. And then agencies can get back to their usual stonewalling and foot-dragging. No matter what the courts decide on the retroactivity issue, it’s still going to take some form of litigation to pry these records loose.