Monday, December 5, 2011
Court Denies Public Access to Domestic Violence Registry
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A local resident has lost his bid to access the state’s Domestic Violence Restraining Order System in order to determine whether he is the subject of any order registered there.
Div. Three of this district’s Court of Appeal Thursday affirmed a ruling by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ronald M. Sohigian that the registry’s contents are exempt from disclosure under the Information Practices Act of 1977.
The self-represented plaintiff, Clay Rollow, sued the state Department of Justice, the governor, and two state employees. He asked for an order compelling the defendants to disclose any information naming him as a restrained party.
After Sohigian sustained a demurrer, Rollow retained an attorney for his appeal. His counsel asked the panel to reverse so that Rollow could plead a claim under the California Public Records Act, but Justice Richard Aldrich, in an unpublished opinion, said that no such claim could be pled because the information is exempt under the CPRA as well.
In his second amended complaint, Rollow claimed that he had been stymied in his efforts to learn whether a restraining order had been entered against him in connection with some disputes he had with Torrance Transit. He alleged that he was told by the agency in 1998 that he was prohibited from riding on any bus driven by any of four named employees.
He was subsequently stopped twice by police officers checking for warrants, he said, each of whom mentioned a restraining order. But when he went to the Superior Court, he alleged, he was told that there were no such orders on file, and when he went to the Torrance Police Department, a sergeant said there were no such orders, “but I suggest that you behave yourself when you’re on our buses, or you will have one.”
In 2000, he acknowledged, a “legitimate restraining order” was entered against him. He claimed that he was entitled to access the registry in order to determine whether the order remained accessible.
Aldrich, however, noted that the CPRA, while creating a presumption in favor of full disclosure, explicitly recognizes all exemptions contained in other state or federal statutes. Such an exemption, the justice added, is created by Family Code Sec. 6380, which limits access to the registry to law enforcement personnel, approved court personnel, and certain other agencies with access to the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System, which is the means by which registry information is entered.
The registry thus differs from state court computer systems, which allow the public access to data entered by court clerks, Aldrich explained. The registry “is not simply a database; it is also a law enforcement tool for the exclusive use of those charged with enforcing protective orders.”
Had the Legislature intended to allow public access to the data, the justice added, it would have done so expressly, as it has with criminal history data accessible through CLETS. “No similar provision appears in the statute establishing the Domestic Violence Restraining Order System,” he wrote.
Attorneys on appeal were Anthony Roach for Rollow and Deputy Attorneys General Zackery P. Morazzini and Mark Beckington for the defendants.
The case is Rollow v. California Department of Justice, B229824.
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company