Monday, December 18, 2017

Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs Victorious in Battle with Sheriff Jim McDonnell

In a recent decision, the Second District Court of Appeal (Second DCA) ruled that the names of peace officers with potential misconduct involving moral turpitude in their personnel files are confidential and not subject to disclosure absent a Pitchess motion.

LA County Sheriff Jim McDonnell wanted to disclose to the LA County District Attorney a department-created list of alleged "Brady" officers so that the District Attorney would know when to file Pitchess motions or inform defendants that a Pitchess motion may be necessary. The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS) brought an action for an injunction to prevent this from occurring. 

The trial court partially granted ALADS' request and ruled that the Sheriff could not disclose the names of officers unless the officer is a potential witness in a pending criminal prosecution. The Second DCA ruled that disclosing the officers' names would violate the Pitchess statutes, and stated that the Pitchess statutes protect not only personnel records but all "information obtained from these records." Thus, the court viewed the trial court's decision as a ruling that the Pitchess statutes were unconstitutional under Brady when it ruled that protected information could be disclosed without a Pitchess motion. 

The Second DCA found that it must follow the precedent established under Mooc and City of Los Angeles and ruled that the Pitchess statutes are constitutional and mere supplementary to the requirements established under Brady. This is because it has been ruled that a defendant who cannot meet the less stringent requirements of the Pitchess standard cannot meet the materiality standard set by Brady

It remains to be seen whether the California Supreme Court will take up an appeal in order to reconcile the Second DCA's ruling with the Supreme Court's previous ruling in Johnson