Friday, June 23, 2017
Court of Appeal Decides to Publish Its Opinion On Los Angeles County Jail-Beatings Invoices
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Div. Three of this district’s Court of Appeal yesterday acceeded to requests of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Association of Southern California Defense Counsel that it certify for publication its June 5, 2017 opinion on the disclosing of attorney fees expended in connection with actions over conditions in Los Angeles County jails.
That opinion followed remand from the California Supreme Court following its Dec. 29 4-3 holding in Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors v. Superior Court, 2 Cal.5th 282, that “invoices for work in pending and active legal matters” are not disclosable under the Public Records Act.
The ACLU of Southern California is now seeking information as to expenditures in connection with litigation that is no longer pending. Under the Court of Appeal’s decision, it is likely to gain tallies, but not the detailed expenditures it wants.
Justice Richard Aldrich said in the opinion:
“We agree that the matter must be remanded for a hearing as to whether fee totals related to concluded matters must be disclosed. Los Angeles County explained that ‘fee totals in legal matters that concluded long ago’ ‘may not’ be confidential….Whether such fee totals must be disclosed under the PRA depends on ‘whether those amounts reveal anything about legal consultation’ or ‘communicate[ ] anything privileged’ by providing insight into litigation strategy or legal consultation....Thus, whether disclosure of fee totals in long-concluded litigation is privileged is a factual question for the trial court in the first instance.”
He went on to say:
“The ACLU is incorrect, however, that the superior court must review other redacted portions of the invoices in concluded matters. Los Angeles County’s conclusion that information in billing invoices is sometimes subject to PRA disclosure appears to be limited to fee totals. Los Angeles County explained that whether the attorney-client privilege applies turns on whether amounts billed reveal anything about legal consultation….
“When discussing information that might be unprivileged after a matter concludes, Los Angeles County pointedly did not discuss billing entries or other aspects of an attorney’s invoice. Instead, it expressly limited its analysis to ‘fee totals.’…The ACLU, of course, seeks information in the invoices precisely because it wishes to discern the County’s legal strategy and uncover the nature of the work performed. Under Los Angeles County, these matters fall within the ‘heartland’ of the privilege….”
The case is County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors v. Superior Court, B257230.
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