PS–The First Amendment Coalition (FAC) has filed a Public Records suit to find out who has visited LA county jail inmate John Noguez, the embattled LA County Assessor who faces twenty-four felony counts for bribery, perjury and related public corruption charges.
Noguez was arrested in October, along with an aide and a political contributor, following a political corruption probe into allegations that the Assessor’s Office lowered property tax bills in exchange for campaign contributions.
FAC’s suit is against County Sheriff Leroy Baca, who administers the county jail. Baca denied two public records requests–one submitted by LA public television station KCET, the other by FAC–for portions of the jail’s visitor logs showing the names and visit-dates of visitors to see Assessor Noguez.
Baca’s denial of the record requests cited concerns about the privacy rights of both Noguez and his visitors. FAC’s record request and writ petition argue that the CPRA’s exemption for privacy-related matters doesn’t apply to a visit to a county jail.
“A visit to a public jail under the scrutiny of law enforcement personnel is about as UN-private an event as one can imagine,” said Peter Scheer, executive director of FAC, a nonprofit organization based in San Rafael.
“Visitors to a jail are subject to search for security reasons, their every movement observed by guards and recorded by security cameras,” said Scheer. “While they and the inmates they visit may not like the absence of privacy, they can’t complain that they reasonably expected the very fact of their encounter to be a private, confidential matter.”
The suit was filed in LA Superior Court on Friday, Feb. 22. FAC is represented by media law experts Jean-Paul Jassy and Gary Bostwick of the firm of Bostwick & Jassy in LA.
FAC is a section 501C(3) nonprofit organization focused on issues of freedom of speech, open-government and government accountability. FAC’s other current litigation includes cases challenging sanctions against public records requestors; a FOIA suit for US Justice Department memos on the “targeted killing” of suspected terrorists; and intervention in the Apple v. Samsung patent case to force the parties to disclose more documents used in their trial.
The jail-visitors case is captioned First Amendment Coalition v. Leroy Baca, Case No. 141668, Los Angeles Superior Court. FAC’s verified writ petition is here:
For more information, contact:
Bostwick & Jassy
“Jean-Paul Jassy” <firstname.lastname@example.org