CNPA joins amicus brief in another reverse-CPRA case

This week, CNPA and other media organizations joined in an amicus brief filed by the Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press supporting the Sacramento News and Review, which was sued by the former Sacramento mayor in a reverse-CPRA action in 2015.

Increasingly common, a reverse-CPRA action occurs as the result of a request for public records under California law. A third party, in this case then- Mayor Kevin Johnson, sued for an injunction to stop the city that received the request from disclosing the records sought. Here, Johnson wanted to shield from public view information about his controversial involvement with the National Conference of Black Mayors.

The SN&R case is extraordinary because the mayor chose to sue not just the city to stop disclosure, but also named the newspaper as a defendant in the lawsuit.

The Reporters Committee brief argues that reverse-CPRA cases are harmful to the public’s right to know, in large part because they require news organizations to defend cases without the promise of recovering attorney fees. Fee-shifting is an integral aspect of the state’s public records law, which ensures that successful requesters who fight for public records are made whole when they prevail.

This brief is filed on the cusp of a resolution in another reverse-CPRA case, Pasadena Police Officers Association v. Superior Court, which was argued before an appellate panel in the second district court on Jan. 16. The decision is expected to be published soon.