Black Panther Party v. Kehoe

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Black Panther Partyvs.Kehoe
Number: 42 Cal.App.3d 645
Year: 1974
State: California
Court: California Third District Court of Appeal
Other lawsuits in California
Other lawsuits in 1974
Precedents include:
1.) The exemptions set forward in statute statute 6254 are permissive and not mandatory in nature and can thus be overridden by the department in the public interest.

2.) Exempt documents cannot be selectively released but must be released to the entire public.

3.) Written complaints filed with state licensing agencies are exempt under statute 6254(f).
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Black Panther Party v. Kehoe was a case before the California Third District Court of Appeal in 1974 concerning complaints of unethical practices by collection agencies.

Important precedents

This case established a number of important precedents:
1.) The exemptions set forward in statute statute 6254 are permissive and not mandatory in nature and can thus be overridden by the department in the public interest.
2.) Exempt documents cannot be selectively released but must be released to the entire public.
3.) Written complaints filed with state licensing agencies are exempt under statute 6254(f).

Background

  • The Bureau of Collection and Investigative Services licenses and monitors complaints concerning the states private collection agencies.
  • The Black Panther Party claims that written complaints issued to the bureau concerning collection agencies are public records and are subject to public record requests.
  • The trial court ruled in favor of the Bureau.
  • The Black Panther Party appealed arguing that the complaints did not constitute investigatory files until a concrete investigation was undertaken and that the Bureau frequently released complaint information, including the personal information of the individual making the complaint, to the organization that the complaint was made about with the claimants permission.[1]

Ruling of the court

The trial court ruled in favor of the Bureau, claiming that statute 6254(f) exempts the documents from inspection. This statute exempts all investigations conducted for "correctional, law enforcement or licensing purposes."[1]

The Court of Appeals overturned the trial courts decision and ruled in favor of the Black Panther Party.

The Court of Appeals argued that a certain degree of privacy is needed with regards to complaints. The individual issuing the complaint requires that their anonymity be preserved in order to prevent backlash from the organization they are filing the complaint about. The organizations require anonymity to prevent the disclosure of unfounded complaints. For this reason statute 6254(f) should be construed so as to protect and exempt the information on complaints in order to protect the privacy of the parties to the complaint. However, the court also found that the Bureau had every right to override this exemption if it was in the public interest based on the last line of statute 6254, which reads, "Nothing in this section prevents any agency from opening its records concerning the administration of the agency to public inspection, unless disclosure is otherwise prohibited by law."[1] Thus, the court ruled that the exemptions found in this statute are permissive in nature and not mandatory. Further, by overriding the exemption and releasing the documents to private collection agencies, the bureau made the records public because the {{California Public Records Act]] does not permit agencies to selectively choose whom they release documents to, but must release the documents to the public as a whole. With this fact in mind, the court reversed the decision and ruled in favor of the Black Panther Party and ordered the documents released.[1]

See also

External links

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Ruling of the Court