Legal Alerts Jun 26, 2019

Public Agencies Should Follow Appellate Decision on SB 1421 Despite New, Conflicting Ruling

Ventura County Decision Latest to Address Public Release of Police Records

Public Agencies Should Follow Appellate Decision on SB 1421 Despite New, Conflicting Ruling

A trial court has issued a conflicting decision on a controversial new California law that makes some police records publicly available. Public agencies, though, should continue to follow the ruling made previously by an appellate court.
 
The First District Court of Appeal said in March that Senate Bill 1421 can be applied retroactively to conduct or records relating to conduct occurring before Jan. 1, 2019 — as long as the California Public Records Act request comes after Jan. 1, 2019. Last week, in Ventura County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association v. County of Ventura et. al, the Ventura County Superior Court held that the law cannot be applied retroactively to conduct or records relating to conduct occurring before Jan. 1, 2019 — regardless of when the records request is made.
 
The Ventura County Superior Court first found, incorrectly, that “[t]here has been no . . . direction from either the California Supreme Court, or any of the appellate districts” on the matter of the retroactive application of SB 1421. SB 1421 amends Penal Code section 832.7 to make certain police personnel records disclosable under the CPRA.
 
The court then held that SB 1421 cannot be applied retroactively because “there is nothing in the plain language of the statute which addresses retroactivity.” Moreover, “[s]ection 3 of the Penal Code specifically states that no part of the code is retroactive unless expressly so stated.” Lastly, comments by the bill’s sponsor implying that she intended the legislation to be retroactive, the legislative history reflecting opposition to the bill on the basis of retroactivity, and the public interest in peace officer records cannot overcome the lack of an express statement of retroactivity, the court found.
 
Nevertheless, trial courts in California are bound by the decision of any appellate court unless the Supreme Court or a different appellate court rules otherwise. Therefore, public agencies should continue to abide by the First District Court of Appeal’s decision that SB 1421 applies to requests under the new law made after it took effect on Jan. 1, 2019.

For more information about this decision, please contact the authors of this Legal Alert listed at the right in the firm’s ARC: Advanced Records Center, or your BB&K attorney.
 
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Disclaimer: BB&K Legal Alerts are not intended as legal advice. Additional facts or future developments may affect subjects contained herein. Seek the advice of an attorney before acting or relying upon any information in this communiqué.

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