City of Hemet v. Superior Court

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City of Hemetvs.Superior Court
Number: 37 Cal.App.4th 1411
Year: 1995
State: California
Court: California Fourth District Court of Appeal
Other lawsuits in California
Other lawsuits in 1995
Precedents include:
This case established that records of internal police investigations were exempt under the California penal code in order to protect the privacy of police officers from the release of unfounded allegations.
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City of Hemet v. Superior Court was a case before the California Fourth District Court of Appeal, Second Division in 1995 concerning open records requests relating to individual privacy.

Important precedents

This case established that records of internal police investigations were exempt under the California penal code in order to protect the privacy of police officers from the release of unfounded allegations.

Background

  • A police officer of Hemet city conducted a personal investigation of drug use at the local high school, where his children attended. He faxed the results of the investigation to the high school principle, which included the names of students he believed were involved in drug sales or use as well as the name of a deputy sheriff who was aware of the drug practices but was not acting on it because students had incriminating photos of that deputy sheriff and were threatening to release them.
  • The city discovered the investigation and conducted its own investigation as to whether the officer used the contacts and privileges of his station to conduct a private investigation which was out of jurisdiction for the city police.
  • The Press-Enterprise requested the cities investigation under the California Public Records Act. The City rejected the request based on three grounds:

1.) the exemption for all records relating to litigation in which the city is a party (statute 6254(b)) due to a tort case which came about as the result of the sheriff mentioned in the personal investigation made by the police officer
2.) the catch-all exemption of statute 6255 which provides an exception for any documents, the release of which would outweight the public interest in non-disclosure
3.) The penal code under statutes 832.5-832.8 which provides for the exemption of documents of internal police investigations based on complaints filed by individuals in an attempt to protect the privacy of police officers

  • The Press-Enterprise filed suit arguing that the tort suit came about two weeks after the cities investigation was completed. The district court order the investigation released with all personal information removed.
  • The city of Hemet filed an appeal.[1]

Ruling of the court

The court ruled in favor of the city and ordered the documents closed.

The court agreed with the newspapers that the city had no right to reject the request because it was being used in current litigation, on the grounds that disclosure of the document would not hamper the cities ability to defend itself. The court also rejected the claim that the catch all exemption of statute 6255 applied because if there was meant to be an exemption for police records, then the legislature would have declared it. The court, however, finally ruled in favor of the city based on the cities first contention. It felt that for police records which fell under the penal code, the importance of maintaining privacy through non-disclosure far outweighed disclosure unless the records of allegations were absolutely proved true. The Court thus ruled in favor of the city and ordered the record exempt.[1]

Associated cases

See also

External links

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Ruling of the Court