Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Court of Appeal Finds Injunction Against Sheriff’s Department Inadequate
By a MetNews Staff Writer
An injunction barring the Sheriff’s Department from releasing to the District Attorney’s Office a list of deputies with disciplinary records that could be used for impeachment if they testified doesn’t go far enough, the Court of Appeal for this district held yesterday in a 2-1 decision.
The petitioner—the Association for Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriffs (“ALADS”)—is also entitled to injunctive relief against the name of any individual deputy being released to prosecutors in the event that deputy is to be called as a witness, Acting Justice Douglas Sortino said in his majority opinion for Div. Eight.
The list of all disciplined deputies is known in the department as a “Brady list.” In the 1963 case of Brady v. Maryland, the United States Supreme Court held that the prosecution must disclose to the defense all exculpatory evidence in its possession.
The California Supreme Court went further in 1974 by mandating in Pitchess v. Superior Court that an accused may, under some circumstances, gain otherwise confidential personnel information about an officer that is relevant to his or her case.
“Pitchess motions” are made pursuant to statutes.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant found that providing a “Brady list” to prosecutors would be an end run around the Pitchess statutes, thus violating them. But, he said, it would be permissible to relate that an individual officer who was slated to testify was on the list.
“In this case, the trial court effectively held that law enforcement agencies have an affirmative constitutional obligation under Brady, in the absence of any compliance with the Pitchess statutes, to notify the prosecutor whenever one of their peace officers has a founded allegation of misconduct involving moral turpitude in his or her personnel file, so long as that officer is also a potential witness in a pending criminal case. The necessary corollary of this holding is that the Pitchess statutes, which require any party outside of the law enforcement agency— including the prosecutor—to make a showing of good cause before obtaining such a disclosure, are unconstitutional in this specific context.”
Yet, he said, the California Supreme Court “has at least twice expressly observed that the statutory Pitchess procedures do not violate either Brady or constitutional due process, but rather, supplement both.”
Chalfant’s order provided that “respondents are not enjoined from disclosing any future developed ‘Brady List’ to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, or any other prosecutorial agency, provided any new Brady List contains only the names of non-sworn employees….”
Non-sworn employees, however, are not represented by ALADS, Sortino pointed out, declaring:
“Whatever the legality, or illegality, of a Brady list disclosure of non-sworn employees, that issue must wait for a lawsuit in which it is fairly raised, noticed, and litigated. That lawsuit is not the immediate case.”
Grimes Concurs, Dissents
Justice Elizabeth Grimes wrote a concurring and dissenting opinion. She said:
“I cannot accept the majority’s principal conclusion: that when the personnel records of a peace officer, who is a potential witness in a pending criminal prosecution, contain sustained allegations of misconduct, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department…cannot disclose that fact to the prosecutor, ‘absent a properly filed, heard, and granted Pitchess motion accompanied by a corresponding court order.’ ”
“The trial court’s injunction merely allows the Department to implement a determination that it can best fulfill its Brady obligations by giving the names of peace officers with Brady material in their files to prosecutors when charges are pending.”
The case is Association for Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriffs, B2S0676.
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