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A&A: Appeal of Superior Court Denial of Writ of Mandate Under Public Records Act

Q:  I am litigating a public records act petition for writ of mandate in Superior Court. The tentative initially went in my favor, but after oral argument, the court reversed its position and denied my petition outright.

I am considering an appeal. Are appeals of petitions for writ of mandate under the PRA discretionary, or as a matter of right? How do they differ from traditional state appeals?

The formal order and judgment denying the petition has not been entered yet, but I have approved it as to form with the Attorneys General’s office.

A: Unfortunately, we are unable to provide much in the way of guidance about litigation procedure through this service.  Nevertheless, as you may know, a petition based on a trial court decision either ordering the disclosure or approving the non-disclosure under the PRA is expressly authorized by statute.  Gov’t Code § 6259(c) (“[A]n order of the court, either directing disclosure by a public official or supporting the decision of the public official refusing disclosure, is not a final judgment or order within the meaning of Section 904.1 of the Code of Civil Procedure from which an appeal may be taken, but shall be immediately reviewable by petition to the appellate court for the issuance of an extraordinary writ.  Upon entry of any order pursuant to this section, a party shall, in order to obtain review of the order, file a petition within 20 days after service upon him or her of a written notice of entry of the order, or within such further time not exceeding an additional 20 days as the trial court may for good cause allow.”).

The California Supreme Court has explained:

When an extraordinary writ proceeding is the only avenue of appellate review, a reviewing court’s discretion is quite restricted. … Accordingly, when writ review is the exclusive means of appellate review of a final order or judgment, an appellate court may not deny an apparently meritorious writ petition, timely presented in a formally and procedurally sufficient manner, merely because, for example, the petition presents no important issue of law or because the court considers the case less worthy of its attention than other matters.

Powers v. City of Richmond, 10 Cal. 4th 85, 113–14 (1995).

Bryan Cave LLP is general counsel for the First Amendment Coalition and responds to FAC hotline inquiries. In responding to these inquiries, we can give general information regarding open government and speech issues but cannot provide specific legal advice or representation.  No attorney-client relationship has been formed by way of this response.

 

 

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