Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

PLN Files Suit Against Los Angeles County for Failure to Comply with Public Records Act

As part of ongoing research, PLN submitted a public records request to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department on January 29, 2008, seeking records related to settlements and verdicts resulting from tort, overdetention and civil rights claims involving both jail prisoners and employees.

Until 2007 the county posted such settlement and verdict information on its website, but it now does so only sporadically. The decision to shroud the outcome of these cases in secrecy by not making them publicly available online was decried at the time by the media and government watchdog groups.

The Office of County Counsel, which represents the Sheriff’s Department, initially argued that some of the documents requested by PLN may be exempt from disclosure, and that it was not “reasonably possible” to conduct a search for the records. Despite a November 2008 follow-up letter from PLN expressing a willingness to work with the county, none of the requested records were produced.

PLN filed suit on March 3, 2009 against Los Angeles County, the Office of County Counsel and the Sheriff’s Depart-ment, to ensure that county officials comply with California’s public records act. The lawsuit notes that pursuant to state law, “public records are open to inspection at all times during the office hours of the state or local agency and every per-son has a right to inspect any public record.” California Gov’t. Code § 6253(a).

PLN contends that the release of the requested records is in the public interest, would shed light on the operations of the Sheriff’s Department, would provide the public with a better understanding of how the county’s jail system is managed, and would reveal how much money jail-related claims have cost the taxpayers.

“We have a client that’s a public-interest publication that’s just trying to access information to which it has a right and we’ve pretty much been stonewalled by the defendants, so hopefully this will get them moving,” stated PLN attorney Elizabeth H. Eng.

In addition to Ms. Eng, PLN is ably represented by Sanford Jay Rosen and Kenneth M. Walczak of Rosen, Bien & Galvan LLP, a San Francisco law firm, and Najeeb N. Khoury and Padraic Glaspy of Howarth & Smith, a Los Angeles law firm. See: Prison Legal News v. Los Angeles County, Superior Court, County of Los Angeles, CA, Case No. BS119336.

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal case

Prison Legal News v. Los Angeles County