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American Civil Liberties Union etc. v. Superior Court

Filed 8/31/17 IN THE SUPREME COURT OF CALIFORNIA AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION ) FOUNDATION OF SOUTHERN ) CALIFORNIA et al., ) ) Petitioners, ) ) S227106 v. ) ) Ct.App. 2/3 B259392 THE SUPERIOR COURT OF ) LOS ANGELES COUNTY, ) ) Los Angeles County Respondent; ) Super. Ct. No. BS143004 ) COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES et al., ) ) Real Parties in Interest. ) ____________________________________) Real parties in interest, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) of the City of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD) of the County of Los Angeles (collectively, real parties) employ automated license plate reader (ALPR) technology in order to locate vehicles linked to crimes under investigation. The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California (ACLU) and Electronic Frontier Foundation (collectively, petitioners) filed a request under the California Public Records Act (CPRA) for all ALPR data collected during a one-week period. (Gov. Code, § 6250 et seq.)1 Petitioners sought disclosure of this ALPR data “so that the legal and policy implications of the government’s use of ALPRs to collect vast amounts of information on almost exclusively law-abiding [citizens of Los Angeles] may be fully and fairly debated.” We initially granted review to determine whether the requested ALPR data are exempt from disclosure as falling within the CPRA provision protecting police and state “[r]ecords of . . . investigations” under section 6254, subdivision (f) (section 6254(f)). As relevant here, section 6254(f) protects from disclosure: “Records of investigations conducted by . . . any state or local police agency.”2 After granting review, we requested additional briefing on a second issue: Whether the catchall exemption in section 6255, subdivision (a) (section 6255(a)) authorizes real parties to withhold the requested ALPR data. Under section 6255(a), a public agency may “justify withholding any record by demonstrating that on the facts of the particular case the public interest served by not disclosing the record clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure of the record.” Petitioners conceded in the trial court that section 6254(f) protects from disclosure the ALPR license plate scan data that matches vehicles linked to law enforcement investigations under section 6254(f). They do not argue that real parties’ use of the ALPR technology is unlawful. They contend only that ALPR scan data are not exempt from disclosure under the CPRA. 1 All further statutory references are to the Government Code, unless otherwise specified. 2 There is no dispute that ALPR data are public records (see § 6252, subd. (e)) and no dispute that real parties are police agencies subject to the CPRA. 2 The trial court determined that the data requested came within section 6254(f)’s “[r]ecords of . . . investigations” exemption. The court also concluded that section 6255(a)’s catchall provision authorized real parties to withhold the data. The Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment based on section 6254(f), without reaching the section 6255(a) question. In light of our constitutional obligation to broadly construe the CPRA in a manner that furthers the people’s right …
Original document
Source: California Supreme Court