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California State Foster Parent Association v. Wagner

July 23, 2008

CALIFORNIA STATE FOSTER PARENT ASSOCIATION, CALIFORNIA STATE CARE PROVIDERS ASSOCIATION, AND LEGAL ADVOCATES FOR PERMANENT PARENTING, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
JOHN A. WAGNER, DIRECTOR OF THE CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, MARY AULT, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF THE CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES DIVISION OF THE CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES, IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William Alsup United States District Judge

ORDER GRANTING IN PART PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO COMPEL

INTRODUCTION

In this action concerning foster-care rates in California, plaintiffs move to compel production of all documents listed in defendants' privilege log. The documents at issue are six legislative analyses completed by the California Department of Social Services, which addressed proposed changes to basic rates paid to foster care providers. Defendants have refused to produce these documents, arguing that they are protected by the deliberative-process privilege. After careful consideration of the documents and the parties' arguments, this order finds that the DSS analyses are subject to the deliberative-process privilege. Applying the eight-factor balancing test used in this Circuit, this order concludes that plaintiffs' need for disclosure outweighs defendants' interest in confidentiality. Given that the documents do contain highly sensitive material not relevant to plaintiffs' claims - namely, lists of the proponents and opponents of the proposed bills - such material shall be redacted. Accordingly, plaintiffs' motion to compel is GRANTED IN PART.*fn1

STATEMENT

This action is brought on behalf of licensed foster parents, who allege that the state of California has failed to pay foster-care rates in compliance with the Child Welfare Act. The California Department of Social Services is the agency charged with enforcement of the Child Welfare Act and administration of the foster-care rate structure. Defendants in this action are John Wagner, director of DSS, and Mary Ault, deputy director of the Children and Family Services Division of DSS.

The documents in question are six legislative analyses, which evaluated proposed legislation that would have increased foster-care rates in California. According to the bill number for the proposed bill addressed in each analysis, the rate-increases were to impact the following fiscal years:

(i) AB 2481: 2007--08, 2008--09, 2009--10, 2010--11.

(ii) AB 2043: 1999--2000.

(iii) AB 1820: 1999--2000, 2000--01, 2001--02.

(iv) AB 1330: 2002--03, 2003--04, 2004--05, 2005--06.

(v) AB 1235: 2001--02.

(vi) AB 278: 2001--02.

There are two types of legislative analyses at issue here - "bill analyses" and "enrolled bill reports" (collectively, "DSS analyses"). Bill analyses evaluate proposed bills before they are decided upon by the state legislature. They are compiled by the DSS Office of Legislation based on the opinions and recommendations of DSS staff from various intra-departmental divisions. When such analyses are completed, they are submitted to the DSS Director's Office for approval. Once the bill analysis is approved and signed by the DSS Director's Office, it is then submitted to the California Health and Human Services Agency, the agency that oversees DSS. HHS considers the bill analysis, either agreeing or disagreeing, and forwards the analysis, with comments, to the Governor's office. The Governor's office reviews the bill analysis and HHS's position, before formulating its own position. Whatever the Governor decides becomes the official position of DSS (Huston Decl. ¶¶ 5--10). By contrast, enrolled bill reports are documents produced by the DSS Office of Legislation after both houses of the state legislature have passed a bill. These documents analyze the bill in its final form and recommend to the Governor whether to sign or veto the bill (Huston Decl. ¶ 13). Defendants have asserted the deliberative-process privilege with respect to six DSS analyses, listing each document on ...


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