IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
November 16, 2010
ESTATE OF BALJIT SINGH, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
COUNTY OF SACRAMENTO, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.
On August 26, 2010, the court held a hearing on defendants' motion to inspect confidential records. At the hearing, plaintiffs expressed their non-opposition to the motion, but did raise the issue of the court's jurisdiction to order release of the confidential records. On November 4, 2010, the court held a further telephonic hearing on the matter. Upon review of the motion and the documents in support and opposition, and good cause appearing therefor, THE COURT MAKES THE FOLLOWING FINDINGS:
This action was filed on behalf of decedent Baljit Singh's estate, his wife and four minor children on May 22, 2009 following Baljit Singh's death by suicide while housed at the Sacramento County Mail Jail. (Compl. at 2.) Plaintiffs assert decedent Singh's death was a result of a deficient suicide prevention program, inadequate staffing, inadequate supervision, defective policies, the failure to summon urgent medical care and the failure to properly monitor and protect when defendants had actual and constructive knowledge of the decedent's psychotic and depressive conditions. Plaintiffs' claims include (1) deliberate indifference to serious medical needs, health and safety pursuant to 42 U.S.C § 1983; (2) an unconstitutional policy pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (3) unconstitutional practices pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (4) supervisor liability pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983; and (5) wrongful death pursuant to Cal. Code of Civ. P. § 377.60 et seq. Plaintiffs allege that they have suffered pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages including but not limited to loss of financial support, society, companionship, comfort, care, solace and protection.
Defendants assert that plaintiffs' allegations of a close-knit family are belied by two state court parentage actions (case number 06FS04832 and 99FS04931).*fn1 Generally, the records for such actions are deemed confidential pursuant to California Family Code § 7643.*fn2
However, they "are subject to inspection only in exceptional cases upon an order of the court for good cause shown." Cal. Fam. Code § 7643(a). Defendants allege that these cases may contain vital information regarding the financial support decedent provided to the plaintiffs, the custody arrangement of the plaintiff children, the level of support plaintiffs received from Sacramento County, and the disposition toward at least two of the plaintiffs. Defendants claim these facts may directly impact the potential damage award for the loss of financial support, companionship, comfort, care and protection. Defendants assert that this constitutes "exceptional" circumstances warranting inspection.
Because plaintiffs do not oppose the defendants' motion to inspect confidential records, plaintiffs' counsel may file a request in the state court to obtain the records sought by defendants. See Cal. Fam. Code § 7643(b). That section provides:
Papers and records pertaining to the action or proceeding that are part of the permanent record of the court are subject to inspection by the parties to the action, their attorneys, and by agents acting pursuant to written authorization from the parties to the action or their attorneys. An attorney shall obtain the consent of the party to the action prior to authorizing an agent to inspect the permanent record. An attorney shall also state on the written authorization that he or she has obtained the consent of the party to authorize an agent to inspect the permanent record.
Based thereon, the undersigned need not reach the question of the jurisdiction of this court to order the release of the confidential documents.*fn3
Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that:
1. Defendants' August 4, 2010 motion to inspect confidential records is denied without prejudice;
2. Plaintiffs shall seek an order for inspection from the appropriate state court pursuant to Cal. Fam. Code § 7643; and
3. This matter is set for further hearing at 11:00 a.m. on December 16, 2010 in a courtroom to be assigned. The court will expect a report from Plaintiffs' counsel on the results of his efforts. This hearing may be dropped from calendar at the request of all counsel.