California Supreme Court Rejects Second Attempt By Cops To Jump The Judicial Queue Over Police Misconduct Records
from the back-of-the-line,-buddy dept
California cops hoping to hide their past misdeeds from the public are going to have to get by without the help of the state’s highest court. A new law went into effect January 1st, opening up police misconduct records to the public for the first time in the state’s history.
With few exceptions, law enforcement’s response has been to pretend the law’s reach doesn’t extend retroactively. This runs contrary to the intent of the law as clarified directly to the courts and the state attorney general’s office by the law’s author, Senator Nancy Skinner.
Several lawsuits have been filed — some by records requesters and some by law enforcement agencies. Both are seeking a declaration from the courts that their side is the right side. So far, two state courts have sided with requesters, stating that the law is retroactive.
Just after the law took effect, the Sheriff’s Employees’ Benefit Association petitioned the state supreme court directly, asking for a ruling on the law’s reach. This request was denied by the court without comment, suggesting the state’s top court was happy to let the lower courts handle this determination.
For a second time, the state supreme court has rejected a premature examination of the law. Scott Shackford at Reason has more details:
After a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled against unions for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Los Angeles Police Department, one union asked the state Supreme Court to weigh in. On Wednesday, the high court declined, leaving in place the lower court’s decision.
The court rejected this request without comment, wordlessly reiterating its stance on the issue: let the court system do its work and stop trying to jump the turnstile. The next step for disappointed fans of opacity are the states’ appeals courts, not the one at the top of the judicial food chain.
From what we’ve seen so far, it seems unlikely the uniformed anti-transparency activists will prevail. The two courts to return rulings have stated the law affects pre-2019 police misconduct records. The state attorney general’s deliberate obtuseness hasn’t budged the judicial needle. Eventually — but hopefully sooner than later — public records requesters will have a clear answer and complete access to records detailing the impropriety and abuse their tax dollars have paid for.