Senate Pays Public Funds to Bury Harassment Claims

The California Senate pays women who accuse its members of sexual harassment to drop their claims and keep their mouths shut, reports Patrick McGreevy for the Los Angeles Times. The latest payout in these secret settlements: $120,000. And the Senate won’t release the claims that detail the allegations: its spokesman says they’re nobody’s business but the Senate’s.

Shuttered Window on Campaign Finance and Lobbying

Cal-Access, the Secretary of State’s Internet window on political income and expenditure report filings by officials, candidates and lobbyists, is on the fritz for the time being, with no known reboot date, reports Torey Van Oot for the Sacramento Bee. Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) has just introduced a bill to double lobbyists’ registration fees to help finance a new system.

Police Beating Victim's Mother Sues D.A. for Information

As a specially assigned investigator reports some progress in the non-criminal probe into the beating death of a mentally disturbed young man by Fullerton police last summer, the victim’s mother has filed a public records lawsuit to obtain information about the incident from Orange County District Attorney Anthony Rackauckas.  Her attorney says that while the public may not have a right to information from a pending criminal investigation under the California Public Records Act, victims’ families do.

Yee Bill Would Require Public E-data to Be Access-Friendly

Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) has announced legislation he will introduce next month to bring citizen access to government information into the 21st Century by requiring public documents and data that are electronically available to be user-friendly and searchable by commonly used software.  His website explains: Continue reading

Sitting on Consultant's Study Costs City Almost $80K

“A judge has ordered Encinitas to pay $54,860 in legal fees to a Los Angeles attorney who won a California Public Records Act lawsuit this year to win the release of a draft report on city road conditions, reports San Diego Union-Tribune reporter Jonathan Horn. “That adds to the $24,957 the city spent unsuccessfully defending itself in the lawsuit.” Continue reading

Another 'Oops' Sealed File Disclosure–This Time by a Judge

Just as the San Francisco Police Department has reportedly announced it’s opening an internal affairs investigation based on a consultant’s statements in a file inadvertently leaked by a lawyer to a newspaper, a federal judge in San Jose, Lucy Koh, has released an unintentionally under-redacted file in the nation’s highest-profile patent lawsuit, reports blogger Christopher Danzig for Above the Law. And what was disclosed was information that was no trade secret at all. But that’s hardly surprising, since in this judge’s handling of this case, reports Reuters, accepting sealed files is all but routine, even encouraged:

Koh and U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal, who oversees certain procedural motions in the case, are newcomers to the federal bench and were both previously intellectual property lawyers representing companies at large law firms. They have not only granted many of Apple and Samsung’s sealing motions, in some cases, they’ve gone a step further.

During an October hearing on the proposed injunction, Koh, unprompted, asked Apple and Samsung if they wanted to seal the courtroom. When the lawyers said such a step wouldn’t be necessary and that they would not mention confidential material during the hearing, Koh commented, “I guess if you all can be careful not to disclose anything that requires sealing, then we can still have that with the open public.”

In contrast, California’s Rule of Court 2.550 states in sections (c), (d) and (e),

Unless confidentiality is required by law, court records are presumed to be open… The court may order that a record be filed under seal only if it expressly finds facts that establish: (1) There exists an overriding interest that overcomes the right of public access to the record; (2) The overriding interest supports sealing the record; (3) A substantial probability exists that the overriding interest will be prejudiced if the record is not sealed; (4) The proposed sealing is narrowly tailored; and (5) No less restrictive means exist to achieve the overriding interest.

As a matter of procedure,

An order sealing the record must (i) specifically set forth the facts that support the findings and (ii) direct the sealing of only those documents and pages, or, if reasonably practicable, portions of those documents and pages, that contain the material that needs to be placed under seal. All other portions of each document or page must be included in the public file.

Lawyer Defends Protest Access, Courtroom Closure

Sacramento’s got (legal) talent. Attorney Linda Parisi argued to extend and to limit First Amendment rights in criminal cases one floor apart in the courthouse last Friday, reports Andy Furillo for the Sacramento Bee. In one case she joined other lawyers in defending Occupy protesters arrested for breaking curfew near city hall in downtown’s Chavez Plaza; in the other she argued to exclude the press and public from pretrial hearings in the belated prosecution of a notorious 30-year-old murder. The latter argument didn’t persuade the judge; the former is still before the other judge.