Friday, May 10, 2013

Calif. Judge Refuses to Bar Daily from Deposition in Open Government Suit

An old picture of the Los Angeles Memorial Col...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Luis A. Lavin yesterday denied respondent's request for a protective order that would have prevented the Los Angeles Times from attending the deposition of Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Interim G.M. John Sandbrook in an open-government lawsuit, the Times reported.

In his written order denying the request in Los Angeles Times Communications et al. v. Los Angeles Coliseum Commission (Case No. BS138331), Judge Lavin chided the respondent for seeking a "gag order" in a case involving "a public matter." Counsel for Sandbrook, who walked out of his deposition in March because of the presence of Times reporters, argued unsuccessfully that press coverage of his testimony was an abuse of discovery. But Judge Lavin wrote that just because Sandbrook "may not like an article the Los Angeles Times writes about him" is an inadequate basis for barring the press from the deposition.

The Times and free press advocacy group Californians Aware sued the Coliseum Commission, alleging it violated  the California Public Records Act [Gov. Code sec. 6250 et seq.] by withholding documents from public view and accused the respondent of engaging in secret deliberations with USC concerning a stadium lease. The Commission denies the allegations.

Citing the two occasions that the arena hosted the Summer Olympics, Judge Lavin said the government transparency suit was a matter of public interest because the Coliseum is "an important landmark with cultural and historic significance." Judge Lavin refused the respondent's request to stay his ruling for 30 days, but also denied the petitioner's motion for attorneys' fees.

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