Monday, March 26, 2012
Judge Grants Disclosure of Candidate’s Evaluations
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Personnel evaluations of a Los Angeles deputy district attorney are, under some circumstances, subject to disclosure under the California Public Records Act, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge has ruled.
In a decision Friday, Judge Ann I. Jones said the public interest outweighed any privacy objections that district attorney candidate Danette Meyers might have, particular since the evaluations were quite positive.
The litigation stemmed from a MetNews request that all deputy district attorneys running for the office’s top job consent to the release of their evaluations for the last three years, along with records of any disciplinary actions. After Meyers and fellow deputy Steve Ipsen declined, the newspaper made a CPRA request.
The District Attorney’s Office objecting, citing the act’s exemption for “unwarranted” invasion of privacy, leading to the writ petition. The MetNews withdrew its request with respect to Ipsen after he failed to return his nominating papers by the March 14 deadline.
Meyers did not respond to the writ petition, leaving the MetNews and the district attorney’s records custodian as the litigating parties.
Jones rejected the newspaper’s contention that the public interest in knowing about the discipline and recent performance of district attorney candidates necessarily outweighs any asserted privacy interest of the individual candidate. Instead, the jurist conducted an in camera inspection of Meyers’ personnel file and employed a balancing test.
The standard for balancing the interests, the judge said, is “how probative the information was on the question of [the candidate’s] qualifications for office against how damaging the information actually is to the interests of the office and public in candid evaluations, and the privacy interests of the candidate herself.”
Based on that review, Jones said, there was nothing in Meyers’ file that “could be expected to chill the frank and candid evaluation of deputy district attorneys by their supervisors” or that would embarrass her personally. The reviews, the judge said, were “stellar.”
Meyers did not return a call requesting comment.
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company