«AMICUS CURIAE BRIEF Of THE LEAGUE Of CALIFORNIA CITIES AND THE CALIFORNIA STATE ASSOCIATION OF COUNTIES IN SUPPORT Of APPELLANT CITY OF LOS ANGELES ...»
COURT OF APPEAL OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
SECOND APPELLATE DISTRICT, DIVISION SIX
ESTUARDO ARDON, ON BEHALF OF Case No. B252476
HIMSELF AND ALL OTHERS
SIMILARLY SITUATED, Los Angeles County Superior
Plaintiff/Appellee, No. BD363959
vs. [Related to Case Nos.
BC40437; 3C404694, CITY OF LOS ANGELES, BC363735; and BC447863] Defendant/Appellant
AMICUS CURIAE BRIEF Of THE LEAGUE Of CALIFORNIA
CITIES AND THE CALIFORNIA STATE ASSOCIATION OF
COUNTIES IN SUPPORT Of APPELLANT CITY OF LOS ANGELESThe Honorable Lee Smalley Edmon DENNIS 3. HERRERA, State Bar #139669 San Francisco City Attorney CHRISTiNE VAN AKEN, State Bar #241 755 Chief of Appellate Litigation WARREN METLITZKY, State Bar #220758 Deputy City Attorney Fox Plaza 1390 Market Street, 6TH Floor San Francisco, California 94 102-5408 Telephone: (415) 554-3916 Facsimile: (415) 554-3837 E-Mail: email@example.com Attorneys for Amicus Curiae
THE LEAGUE OF CALIFORNIA
CITIES AND THE CALIFORNIA
STATE ASSOCIATION OF COUNTIES
CERTIFICATE OF INTERESTED ENTITIES OR PERSONSThere are no interested entities or persons to list in this Certificate per California Rules of Court, Rule 8.208.
LI Interested entities or persons are listed below:
Entity or Person Name of Interested Nature of Interest 1.
entity information if necessary.
Please attach additional sheets with person or Dated: August 4, 2014
DENNIS I. HERRERASan Francisco City Attorney
CHRISTINE VAN AKENChief of Appellate Litigation
WARREN METLITZXYDeputy City
In 1981, the California legislature made various small changes to California’s open meeting law and the Public Records Act (“PRA”), Government Code sections 6250 et seq. Included in that bill was new Government Code section 6254.5, a common-sense provision that prevents public entities from playing favorites by providing a non-public document to a favored friend, and then withholding it from a less-politically appealing group. Until now, no court has ever suggested that this uncontroversial provision results in a waiver of the attorney-client and work-product privileges when a low-level clerk or other staff member accidentally turns over privileged materials in response to a PRA request. After all, if that were the case, then public entities would be forced to create an entirely new, and expensive bureaucracy by which public entities for responding to public record requests to avoid the risk of an inadvertent yet catastrophic disclosure.
Yet that is exactly what Respondent Eduardo Ardon suggests in this case.
As explained in the City of Los Angeles’ brief, section 6254.5 of the PRA does not repeal Evidence Code section 9 12’s protections for attorneyclient and work-product privileges. The relevant case law, the legislative history and policy considerations all show that section 6254.5 applies only to deliberate and selective disclosure, while section 9 12’s more specific provisions protect against inadvertent disclosure of privileged material.
Amici focus on three points in this brief. first, an analysis of the plain text of the statute demonstrates that section 6254.5 does not apply to an unauthorized disclosure of privileged material. (See infra, Part II.A) The only case to address the issue, Masonite Corp v. County ofMendocino Air Quality Management Dist. (1996) 42 Cal.App.4th 436, holds that an League & CSAC Amicus Brief 1 n:\lit’J12014\141258\00946660.docx CASE NO. B252476 unauthorized disclosure is not within the scope of the discloser’s “agency” or “employment,” and thus does not satisfy a textual prerequisite to application of section 6254.5’s waiver provision. Pursuant to Masonite, the trial court plainly erred here.
A different, but related textual analysis compels the same result. (See infra, Part ILB.) An agency employee or representative who does not have authority to waive privileged material cannot “disclose” privileged information because the employee has not met his or her duty under the PRA disclosure statute (section 6253) to first inform the holder of the privilege of the likelihood of waiver. Thus, even if the employee transmits privileged material, the agency itself as the holder of the privilege has not “disclosed” the material, and has not met a textual prerequisite to application of section 6254.5.
Second, Roberts v. City ofPalmdate (1993) 5 Cal.4th 363, a seminal case on privilege and the PRA, instructs that the public is best served by preserving the existing balance between privilege and existing open government law. (See infra, Part III.A.) Roberts also explains that the PRA’s attorney-client privilege protections should be harmonized with a later-enacted statute that purports to repeal those protections unless the two statutes cannot be reconciled. (See infra, Part III.B.) Here, applying section
6254.5 to selective disclosure rather than reading it as requiring an automatic waiver anytime there is an inadvertent disclosure hannonizes the statute with Evidence Code section 912. (See infra, Part III.C.) Third, any construction of section 6254.5 that requires an automatic waiver will have drastic consequences for public entities and California taxpayers, and would undermine the purpose and application of the PRA.
(See infra, Part IV.) Costs for responding to PRA requests would skyrocket, League & CSAC Amicus Brief n:\lit\112014\14125$\00946660.docx CASE NO. B252476 as a full-blown litigation privilege review and a corresponding investigation would be required for most documents or other records subject to a PRA request. And the public and the courts would suffer as PRA requests would be met with over-designation of privileged material (also leading to many more legal challenges in the courts), delays in production, and fewer available records. Section 6254.5 was never intended to require of public entities a standard of perfection and staffing that cannot be expected from even the most sophisticated law firms involved in multi-billion dollar litigation.
I. THE PARTIES’ CONTENTIONS REGARDING SECTION6254.5.
Ardon contends, and the trial court held, that the plain language of the statute is unambiguous, and that “plain language provides that a local agency’s disclosure of documents pursuant to a PRA request results in an automatic waiver of any privilege that may have applied.” (Respondent’s Brief [“Resp. Br.”] at p.12; see also 2 CT 467-68). Ardon’s entire argument rests on the plain text of the statute. He contends the Court’s analysis should begin and end there. According to Ardon, the Court should not imply League & CSAC Amicus Brief 3 n:\lit\112014U41258\00946660.docx CASE NO. B252476 another exception into the statute because the plain text already explicitly delineates nine other exceptions to the waiver rule. (Resp. Br. at pp. 13-14.) Likewise, the Court should not consider the legislative history because the plain text is unambiguous. (Resp. Br. at pp. 15-16.) He argues that none of the relevant case law permits the Court to judicially insert language into the statute that contradicts the plain text. (Resp. Br. at pp. 17-18). Finally, Ardon dismisses as a matter for the Legislature any real-world impact of creating an “automatic waiver” rule under the PRA. (Resp. Br. at pp. 17.) The City of Los Angeles (“City”) contends that section 6254.5 only applies to selective, intentional disclosure of many categories of documents otherwise exempt from the PRA (Appellant’s Opening Brief [“City Br.”] at pp. 24-32; Appellant’s Reply Brief [“Reply”] at pp. 7-9). In contrast, Evidence Code section 912 governs whether an inadvertent disclosure constitutes a waiver of more specific privileges—here, the attorney-client and the work-product privileges. (Id.) The City contends the two statutes can and should be read together and “harmonized.” (City Br. at pp.32; Reply at pp. 4-9). The City’s argument is based on the relevant statutes, case law, legislative history, and policy concerns, all which are addressed in detail in the City’s briefs. (See generally City Br. & Reply.) UNDER THE PLAIN TEXT OF SECTION 6254.5, A II.
STATUTORY PREREQUISITE FOR WAIVER IS NOT MET
WHEN EMPLOYEE OR REPRESENTATIVE TRANSMITS A
PRIVILEGED DOCUMENT WITHOUT THE AUTHORITY TO
WAIVE THE PRIVILEGE.Two separate textual analyses both support the City’s construction of section 6254.5. Both analyses show that under the plain text of the statute, an authorized waiver of privileged material is aprerequisite to application of section 6254.5. First, an unauthorized transmission of privileged materials does not fulfill section 6254.5’s prerequisite that the disclosure be within the League & CSAC Amicus Brief n:\lit\112014\141258\00946660.docx CASE NO. B252476 scope of the “agency” or “employment” of the discloser. This was the conclusion ofMasonite Corp v. County ofMendocino Air Quality Management Dist. (1996) 42 Cal.App.4th 436, a case almost completely ignored by Ardon. Second, an unintentional transmission of privileged materials does not implicate the statute because the statute’s prerequisite that the agency “discloses” the document has not been met. Those two textual analyses are discussed in more detail below.
A. Textual Analysis: Masonite Holds That Section 6254.5 Does Not Apply Because Inadvertent Disclosure Is Not Within The Scope Of The Discloser’s “Authority” or “Employment.” Ardon’ s “plain text” interpretation of section 6254.5 was explicitly rejected in Masonite Corp v. County ofMendocino Air Quality Management Dist. (1996) 42 Cal.App.4th 436.
Masonite was a “facility operator” governed by The Air Toxics “Hot Spots” Information andAssessment Act of 1987 (“Act”), which obligated Masonite to submit to the Air Quality Management District various emissions inventory reports. The Act identifies as public records all information contained in emission inventory reports, except certain information that facility operators designate as privileged and confidential “trade secrets.” The PRA exempts “trade secrets” from disclosure.
(Government Code section 6254.7(d).) Masonite properly designated certain information as trade secrets, which the facility operator subsequently mistakenly disclosed. (Masonite, 42 Cal.App.4t at pp.442-44.) The court held the inadvertent disclosure of trade secrets that are exempt from public disclosure under the PRA does not waive the privilege.
(IcL at p. 449.) “[T]he exemptions from public disclosure afforded by [the are absolute. (Id.) Exempt material “[does] not become PRA]...“...
Specifically, the Masonite court held that the plain text of section 6254.5 did not apply to the transmission of a protected trade secret document by a facility operator not authorized to disclose trade secret documents. (Id. at p.
452.) Notably, the Masonite Court’s ruling was based on the plain text of section 6254.5. A prerequisite to the phrase “this disclosure shall constitute is a waiver” is that the “state or local agency discloses a public record which is otherwise exempt from this chapter.” (Gov’t Code §6254.5.) In turn, “[aJgency’ includes a member, agent, officer, or employee of the agency acting within the scope of his or her membership, agency, office, or employment.” (Gov’t Code §6254.5 [emphasis added].) The Masonite court ruled that the transmission did not fall within section 6254.5’s prerequisite that the “agency” disclose the document because the unauthorized transmission of trade secret information was outside the scope of the operator’s “agency” or “employment.” (Masonite, supra, 42 Cal.App.4th at p. 452 [“the mistaken and inadvertent release” of trade secret information was “outside the proper scope of the employee’s duties”]. In short, Masonite explains that where an employee is not authorized to waive a privilege, the text of the statute has not been satisfied, and section 6254.5’s waiver provision does not apply.
Ardon offers no explanation why the holding of Masonite does not compel reversal of the trial court’s ruling. Ardon’s only reference to Masonite is a citation to support the proposition that “disclosure, even if inadvertent, constitutes waiver pursuant to section 6254.5.” (Resp. Br. at p.
League & CSAC Amicus Brief 6 n:\litMi2Ol4\141258\00946660.docx CASE NO. B252476 17.)’ Masonite holds the exact opposite. And neither Ardon nor the trial court’s order (2 CT 478-479) addresses Masonite’s ruling that the plain language of section 6254.5 renders the statute inapplicable where a public entity transmits a non-public document when it has no authority to waive a privilege.
B. Textual Analysis: Section 6454.5 Does Not Apply Because The Agency Cannot “Disclose” A Privileged Document Unless The Holder Of The Privilege Determines It Is Discioseable.
A different reading of the text section 6254.5 compels the same conclusion.
As discussed supra, section 6254.5 only applies when an agency “discloses” a record. “Discloses” is not specifically defmed in Section
6254.5 or in the PRA. (See Gov’t Code §6252 [defmitions].) While both Ardon and the trial court contend that the plain text of section 6254.5 is unambiguous, they both erroneously assumed that the term “disclosed” means “transmitted.” Masonite holds otherwise, as discussed in the preceding section.
‘Ardon may be referring to the Category 2 documents in Masonite.