California Supreme Court backs expanding access to police misconduct cases

Originally published at:

Case affects privacy rights of law enforcement officers, and freedom of information for those investigating police abuse.


For me, the surprise was the unanimous vote; three out of the seven CSC justices were appointed by Republican state governors.


If police officers’ misconduct ends up impacting their ability to testify, maybe we’ll finally have law enforcement scrambling to deal with bad cops in their ranks. Won’t that be a thing to see.


Call me Donny Downer, but the good ol’ boys now may resort (even further?) to ‘poor’ records-keeping.


Yeah, probably. But with expanded access to records, maybe someone else will take it upon themselves to do record keeping for them? Then some third-party police oversight group ends up having some interesting power over the cops…


Once this information becomes visible, especially if an officer testifies in a new case and an attorney brings their presence on a list like to attack their credibility, how many cases are going to get appealed based on this newly exposed information?

I would have no problem with police whatsoever in fact I would actually support them instead of hate them if they simply followed the laws like everyone else.

Instead I see them flouting Authority at every turn harassing people beating innocents and killing innocents. I’ve seen them kill a man blocks from my doorstep in East Pittsburgh.

I just watched Braveheart today again and even though Mel Gibson is a piece of shit, I am reminded the police in America are little better than the English soldiers in Braveheart- a diseased symptom of a greater evil.

When tyranny masquerades as law and harms people they preport to protect, tyranny must be held to account.

I commend anyone who peacefully uses the law and I commend honest officers who out their fellow ones that are bad. This is what accountability looks like.


Logline on my screenplay about San Francisco police corruption in the 30s; “There’s only one mob in San Francisco. The Police.”


Like the cops always say, if you’re doing nothing wrong then you got nothing to hide.

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Boingboing just showed me an ad for nineline which linked to their Assassin t shirt which listed Hilary as a synonym.

Maybe they need a list of charges made by their advertisers?

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According to TFA the info may be disclosed to prosecutors, not “must” or “shall” or to anybody else :confused:

The decision was narrow, holding only that state confidentiality laws permit law enforcement agencies to alert prosecutors when an officer who is a potential witness has something in his or her background that might affect the outcome of the case.

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If an officer chooses to testify and the prosecutor is informed of their past misconduct, is the prosecutor required to divulge that information to the defense attorney? Should they be?

Despite what we see in TV and movies, I seem to recall hearing that real-life judges frown heavily on the surprise witnesses or pieces of evidence that attorneys pull out of thin air at the 11th hour without a damned good reason. If the judicial process were fair (it’s not, but hypothetically speaking) that seems like information that should be available to both sides.

“VoTe bLUe nO mATtEr wHO”

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Between their longstanding legal information services branch and their newer ‘risk solutions’ branch(formerly ChoicePoint); I could see LexisNexis getting in to that sort of recordkeeping.

Wouldn’t do the ‘de facto, much of the legal code is privately held’ problem any good; but their incentive to put together a handy database to run the opposition’s witnesses against prior to trial is vastly greater than Sheriff Bubba’s Justice Posse’s desire to keep accurate records of their less flattering moments in lawification.

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That LA Times article is great. Here’s the Court’s full opinion:

A prosecutor in a criminal case must disclose to the defense certain evidence that is favorable to the accused. (Brady v. Maryland (1963) 373 U.S. 83 (Brady).) This duty sometimes requires disclosure of evidence that will impeach a law enforcement officer’s testimony. Such disclosure may be required even if the prosecutor is not personally aware that the evidence exists. Because the duty to disclose may sweep more broadly than the prosecutor’s personal knowledge, the duty carries with it an obligation to “learn of any favorable evidence known to the others acting on the government’s behalf in the case, including the police.”

The so-called Pitchess statutes, however, restrict a prosecutor’s ability to learn of and disclose certain information regarding law enforcement officers. Most notably, Penal Code section 832.7 renders confidential certain personnel records and records of citizens’ complaints, as well as information “obtained from” those records. Upon a motion showing good cause, a litigant may obtain a court’s in camera inspection of the confidential information and, possibly, win the information’s disclosure. But the less reason there is to believe that an officer has engaged in misconduct, the harder it is to show good cause.

In part to address this issue, some law enforcement agencies have created so-called Brady lists. These lists enumerate officers whom the agencies have identified as having potential exculpatory or impeachment information in their personnel files — evidence which may need to be disclosed to the defense under Brady and its progeny. Disclosure of the fact that an officer is on a Brady list both signals that it may be appropriate to file a motion seeking in camera inspection and helps to establish good cause for that inspection. We recently described this Brady-alert practice as “laudabl[e].”

To resolve the question presented, it is enough to hold that the Department does not violate section 832.7(a) by sharing with prosecutors the fact that an officer, who is a potential witness in a pending criminal prosecution, may have relevant exonerating or impeaching material in that officer’s confidential personnel file.

(Most citations omitted). Narrow holding, but still good.

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