Have a few hours to spare this Wednesday, Oct. 9? The California Supreme Court will hear arguments in FAC’s lawsuit against the State Bar (Case No. S194951), starting at 10am. The hearing is being held, not at the Court’s courtroom, but at the UC Berkeley School of Law, Room 215, Boalt Hall.
FAC Board member James Chadwick is arguing for FAC. FAC’s co-plaintiff, UCLA Professor Richard Sander, will be represented by LA attorney Jean-Paul Jassy (who recently wrote an amicus brief for FAC in a defamation case in the US Supreme Court).
Prof. Sander sued the Bar for access to historical data—stripped of names and all identifying information—about Bar applicants. He needs this “anonymized” data for academic research on affirmative action policies. Although FAC takes no side in the underlying affirmative action debate, that debate is a matter of overriding public interest. We contend that it may not be suppressed or cut short by denying access to the requested data.
The central legal issue to be decided by the California high court is whether the State Bar is subject to a legal right of public access to its records. The Bar, as a judicial branch entity, is exempt from the California Public Records Act. That much is undisputed. This case addresses whether records of the Bar are nonetheless “public records” under alternative legal theories.
One theory is a “common law” right of access. That is the theory adopted by the Court of Appeal in a 2011 ruling in FAC’s and Sander’s favor. Another is a right of access under article I, section 3 of the California Constitution, which was amended in 2004 by Prop 59. The Prop 59 amendment says: “[t]he people have the right of access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business, and therefore . . . the writings of public agencies and officials shall be open to public scrutiny.”
The oral argument tomorrow at Boalt Hall promises to be lively and interesting. See you there!