California Court of Appeals, Second District, Seventh Division
PROCEEDINGS in mandate. Jane L. Johnson Los Angeles County
Super. Ct. No. BS156058, Judge. Petition for writ of mandate
granted in part.
Michael Feuer, City Attorney, Carlos De La Guerra, Managing
Assistant City Attorney, Debra L. Gonzales, Assistant City
Attorney, Blithe Smith Bock and Gabriel L. Ruha, Deputy City
Attorneys for Petitioner.
Best & Krieger, Shawn Hagerty, Rebecca Andrews and
Victoria Hester for The California State Association of
Counties, as Amicus Curie on behalf of Petitioner.
appearance for Respondent.
Cook for Real Party in Interest.
Wright Tremaine, Kelli L. Sager, Dan Laidman and Thomas R.
Burke for Los Angeles Times Communications, LLC, The
McClatchy Company, Hearst Corporation, The Reporters
Committee for Freedom of the Press, Californians Aware, The
California Newspaper Publishers Association, and The First
Amendment Coalition, as Amicus Curia on behalf of Real Party
MODIFYING OPINION (NO CHANGE IN JUDGMENT)
ORDERED that the opinion filed March 2, 2017 be corrected as
1 Superior Court judge name is Joanne B. O'Donnell;
1 City Attorney name is Gabrielle L. Ruha;
6, last paragraph second line “who had represented
17, line 4, ‘[t]he legislative purpose of expediency
and immediate reviewability... cannot be served by
transforming a public record request into a drawn out
discovery battle.” (Wilder v. Superior Court
(1998) 66 Cal.App.4th 77, 84.)
petition for rehearing is denied. The foregoing does not
change the judgment.
Acting P. J. SEGAL, J., KEENY, J. (Assigned)
Acting P. J.
Party in Interest Cynthia Anderson-Barker filed a petition
under the California Public Records Act (Gov. Code,
§§ 6250, et seq., (CPRA)) to compel the City of Los
Angeles to disclose electronically stored documents and data
that contained information relating to vehicles impounded by
the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). The City argued
that the requested materials did not qualify as “public
records” because a private third party owned them.
to the hearing on the petition, Anderson-Barker propounded
discovery requests seeking evidence regarding the City's
claim that it did not own the materials. The City asserted a
single objection to each discovery request contending that
the Civil Discovery Act did not apply to actions brought
under the CPRA. Anderson-Barker filed a motion to compel the
City to provide further responses to her discovery. The trial
court granted the motion, concluding that: (1) the Civil
Discovery Act applied to CPRA proceedings; and (2) the City
had waived any other objections to the discovery requests.
The court ordered the City to respond to the discovery
requests without any further objections, and imposed
discovery sanctions in the amount of $5, 560.00.
City filed a petition for writ of mandate seeking an order
directing the trial court to vacate its order, and enter a
new order denying the motion to compel. We issued an order to
show cause, and now grant the City's petition in part.
Although we agree with the trial court's conclusion that
the Civil Discovery Act applies to CPRA proceedings, we
reverse the remainder of the order, and remand for further
Angeles Police Department (LAPD) uses privately owned
companies to tow and store impounded vehicles. These tow
companies are referred to as “Official Police
Garages” (OPGs), and perform their services pursuant to
written contracts entered into with the City of Los Angeles.
Although the City contracts separately with each OPG, the
terms of the contracts are materially identical.
a LAPD officer needs to impound a vehicle, he or she contacts
an OPG to tow and store the vehicle. The LAPD officer is
required to prepare a “CHP 180 form” that
documents the vehicle seizure. The officer and the OPG each
retain a portion of the CHP 180 form. The OPG is required to
enter certain information regarding the impoundment into a
database known as the “Vehicle Information Impound
Center” (VIIC). The VIIC is maintained by the
“Official Police Garage Association of Los
Angles” (OPG-LA), a private organization comprised of
tow companies that have OPG contracts with the City. The OPGs
are also required to scan their portion of the CHP 180 form
into “Laserfiche, ” an independent document
storage company that OPG-LA contracts with to store
Summary of Prior Litigation Seeking Disclosure of VIIC
Data and Laserfiche Scans
March 10, 2014, Colleen Flynn submitted a written request to
the LAPD seeking “the following electronically stored
data: [(1)] All data recorded in [the VIIC] database. [(2)]
All documents as scanned into Laserfiche regarding vehicle
seizures....” Although Flynn's request acknowledged
that the VIIC data and Laserfiche scans were “stored in
systems maintained by [OPG-LA], ” she asserted that the
materials qualified as “public records” because
the City's “contracts” with OPG-LA and the
OPGs provided it the right to “access and
possess” the materials.
LAPD declined Flynn's request. In a letter, the LAPD
explained that the materials Flynn had requested did not
qualify as “public records” within the meaning of
the CPRA because OPG-LA maintained the computer systems that
stored the VIIC database and the Laserfiche scans. Although
the LAPD admitted it had authority to “access”
the VIIC data and Laserfiche scans “for the purpose of
conducting necessary law enforcement investigations, ”
it asserted that such access did not qualify as
“ownership” of those materials, or otherwise
transform the materials into public records. The LAPD further
asserted that even if the requested materials qualified as
public records, they were subject to numerous exemptions set
forth in the CPRA.
March 27, 2014, Flynn's attorney, Donald Cook, filed a
petition for writ of mandate pursuant to Government Code
section 6258 seeking to compel the City of Los
Angeles to disclose the VIIC data and the Laserfiche scans.
The petition alleged that the materials qualified as
“public records” under the CPRA, and that there
was no “lawful or proper reason for [the City's]
refusal to provide the records....” The City opposed
the petition, asserting that it did not own the materials in
question. The parties presented evidence in support of their
respective positions, which included a declaration from LAPD
detective Ben Jones and samples of contracts entered into
between the OPGs and the City.
briefing, Flynn argued that the following provision set forth
in an attachment to the OPG contracts established that the
City owned the VIIC data and the Laserfiche scans:
“Unless otherwise provided for herein, all documents,
materials, data and reports originated and prepared by
CONTRACTOR under this contract shall be and remain the
property of the City.” The City, however, argued that a
separate provision set forth in section 14.3 of the OPG
contracts clarified that the OPG was to “retain... the
VIIC and Laserfiche records, ” and that the City was
only permitted inspect the records for “purposes of
audit... and law enforcement.” In the City's view,
this language demonstrated that it did not own the materials,
and was only allowed to access the information for limited
court agreed with the City, explaining that the provision
Flynn had relied on provided the City ownership of all work
product the OPGs had produced under their contracts with the
City “‘unless otherwise provided for' in the
OPG contract.” The court further explained that
“[section] 14.3 meets the ‘otherwise provided
for' requirement, thereby negating [the ownership
provision set forth in the attachment provision].” The
court also noted that the OPG contracts described the two
circumstances under which the City ...