Friday, February 17, 2012
Supreme Court Wil Not Hear Bid for Public Access to State Domestic Violence Registry
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The California Supreme Court has declined to hear a local resident’s 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.
The justices, at their weekly conference Wednesday in San Francisco, voted 6-1 to deny review in Rollow v. California Department of Justice, B229824. Only Justice Kathryn Werdegar voted to grant review.
Div. Three of this district’s Court of Appeal last November 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 plaintiff, Clay Rollow, represented himself in the trial court, but Tarzana attorney Anthony Allen Roach represented him on appeal. Rollow sued the state Department of Justice, the governor, and two state employees, asking for an order compelling the defendants to disclose any information naming him as a restrained party.
Rollow asked the Court of Appeal to reverse so that he could plead a claim under the California Public Records Act, but Justice Richard Aldrich, in an unpublished opinion, said that no such claim could be pled because the information is exempt under the CPRA as well.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 said, 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.
The high court Wednesday did accept two cases for review:
•In re Cipro Cases (2011) 200 Cal.App. 4th 442, in which the Fourth District, Div. One rejected challenges by individuals and nonprofit entities to a settlement of an antitrust dispute involving the antibiotic Cipro. The Court of Appeal held that “settlement of a lawsuit to enforce a patent does not violate the Cartwright Act if the settlement restrains competition only within the scope of the patent, unless the patent was procured by fraud or the suit for its enforcement was objectively baseless.”
•Biancalana v. T.D. Service Company (2011) 200 Cal.App. 4th 527, in which the Sixth District denied relief to a trustee who erroneously sold a foreclosed upon property at one-tenth what the opening bid should have been. The court held that the error was wholly under the trustee’s control and thus did not qualify for relief based on procedural irregularity.
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company