Thursday, November 19, 2015
High Court Turns Down Deputies’ Union Case Against Publication
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The California Supreme Court yesterday denied review of a Court of Appeal decision rejecting an effort to block a newspaper from publishing information on the backgrounds of certain Los Angeles deputy sheriffs.
The justices, at their weekly conference in San Francisco, unanimously left standing the ruling of this district’s Div. Three in Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs v. Los Angeles Times Communications (2015) 239 Cal. App. 4th 808. The ruling was issued in July and ordered published by the Court of Appeal Aug. 19.
ALADS sought to have the Los Angeles Times enjoined from publishing a list of officers who had worked for the phased-out Office of Public Safety and successfully gained employment with the Sheriff’s Department.
Failed to Persuade
The union 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.”
The panel affirmed Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michelle R. Rosenblatt’s order granting the Times’ anti-SLAPP motion.
Pentagon Papers Case
Egerton cited the Pentagon Papers case, New York Times Co. v. United States (1971) 403 U.S. 713.
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.”
“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.”
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