Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Deputies’ Union Loses Bid to Bar Publication by Los Angeles Times
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A union embarked on a futile effort in seeking to have the Los Angeles Times enjoined from publishing information on the backgrounds of officers who had worked for the phased-out Office of Public Safety and successfully gained employment with the Sheriff’s Department, the Court of Appeal for this district said yesterday in affirming the dismissal of the action.
The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (“ALADS”) failed to persuade the appeals court that because the applications of the job-seekers had to have been pilfered, a prior restraint was justified.
Writing for Div. Three, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Anne Egerton, sitting on assignment, said:
“…ALADS has cited no case permitting the kind of injunction it seeks here, to restrain a newspaper from publishing news articles on a matter of public concern: the qualifications of applicants for jobs as law enforcement officers. ALADS has cited no case because there is no such case. For more than one hundred years, federal and state courts have refused to allow the subjects of potential news reports to stop journalists from publishing reports about them.”
Egerton’s opinion affirms a judgment for the Los Angeles Times Communications LLC entered after Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michelle R. Rosenblatt granted the Times’ anti-SLAPP motion.
Pentagon Papers Case
“The seminal case, of course, is the Pentagon Papers case, New York Times Co. v. United States (1971) 403 U.S. 713,” Egerton noted.
There, the United States Supreme Court held that the New York Times and the Washington Post could not be barred from publishing portions of the secret “Report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Vietnam Task Force” on U.S. military and political involvement in Vietnam from 1945-67.
Applying that case, Egerton said, the injunction sought by ALADS “would be an unconstitutional prior restraint.”
“The cases invalidating prior restraints—especially restraints on publication by the press—are legion.”
George Nicholson’s Suit
Egerton made note of the decision in Nicholson v. McClatchy Newspapers (1986) 177 Cal.App.3d 509. That case involved a current member of the Third District Court of Appeal, George Nicholson, who in 1983 was found by the State Bar Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation to be “not qualified” for appointment to the Sacramento Municipal Court, and was not appointed.
Nicholson sued the State Bar over the leaking of what was required to be a “confidential” evaluation and sued two newspapers that reported the rating. Sacramento Superior Court Judge Roger Warren sustained demurrers without leave to amend and the Court of Appeal, in a 1986 opinion by Justice Keith Sparks affirmed, saying:
“While the government may desire to keep some proceedings confidential and may impose the duty upon participants to maintain confidentiality, it may not impose criminal or civil liability upon the press for obtaining and publishing newsworthy information through routine reporting techniques.”
(Nicholson later cleared the JNE Commission and was appointed to the Sacramento Municipal Court in 1987, elevated to the Sacramento Superior Court in 1989, and named to the Court of Appeal in 1990.)
“Law enforcement officers protect the public. They prevent crime, and they investigate and make arrests when crimes occur. They carry and use firearms and other weapons. They are authorized to use deadly force and to restrain individual liberty. The public has a strong interest in the qualifications and conduct of law enforcement officers….Here, a labor union and unnamed officers seek to stop a newspaper from publishing news reports about the hiring and evaluation of officers, including allegations of past misconduct….The trial court properly granted the Times’ anti SLAPP motion.”
(The jurist said in a footnote that the “Times states in its brief that it published an article on December 1, 2013, reporting that LASD had hired ‘dozens’ of OPS deputies even though their background investigations ‘raised serious concerns about dishonesty and misconduct,’ and that the County Board of Supervisors then asked LASD to investigate.” She commented that the newspaper did not adhere to the rule pertaining to gaining judicial notice.)
ALADS was represented by Elizabeth J. Gibbons of Green & Shinee and by Gerald M. Serlin and Kelly R. Horwitz of Benedon & Serlin. Kelli L. Sager, Rochelle L. Wilcox and Daniel A. Laidman of Davis Wright Tremaine and Jeffrey D. Glasser, a staff attorney, acted for Los Angeles Times Communications.
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