Alberto & Sain Notch Another Win in a California Public Records Act Case
Los Angeles Partner Tony M. Sain and Senior Counsel Mae G. Alberto have won a defense verdict for the firm's newest Governmental Entity Liability Team client. The case, brought under the California Public Records Act (CPRA), was litigated by the firm's Pitchess & Police Records Advocacy, Instruction and Defense (RAID) Unit, which Mr. Sain leads and Ms. Alberto is a member of.
Following the highly publicized death of a suspect in police custody, our client was sued by multiple family members eager to try the case in the media. In addition to being put in the spotlight, our client made a number of missteps that would be difficult to overcome, including failure to respond to a CPRA request for months after the statutory deadline had passed.
On top of that, our client’s investigation into the suspect's death had been hampered by an outside agency which was months behind schedule in completing its autopsy report, paralyzing our client’s ability to complete its own investigation for over a year. As a consequence, our client was facing the prospect of being forced to turn over incomplete investigative records, harming both the investigations and the entity's reputation.
It was at this point that our client contacted the RAID Unit, who quickly adopted a two-pronged approach to defending them. First, the RAID Unit engaged in counseling to improve the CPRA response from our client. Then Mr. Sain and Ms. Alberto mounted a robust defense of the CPRA writ lawsuit based on the team's extensive knowledge of the subtleties of CPRA law following recent changes by the California Legislature.
Citing the ongoing investigation, Mr. Sain and Ms. Alberto pointed to provisions which temporarily exempt from disclosure the police investigatory records that Plaintiffs sought. The RAID Unit helped our client assemble clear and convincing evidence which justified withholding the investigative records for more than a year after both the incident date and the CPRA request date.
The results speak for themselves: the court issued a complete denial of the petition, including denial of the request for attorneys’ fees. Our client is overjoyed.
Tony M. Sain is a partner in the Los Angeles office of Manning & Kass, where he practices on the Governmental Entity Defense Team defending public agencies and officers in civil rights actions and employment cases, as well as other clients in general litigation, including the defense of other public and private entity tort cases and entertainment-related matters. Mae G. Alberto is a senior counsel in the Los Angeles office of Manning & Kass, where she is a member of the firm’s Appellate Law/Strategy, Writs, and Appeals Team. As a member of the team, Ms. Alberto provides specialized legal support to the firm’s various other legal teams.