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Highlights of FAC’s Legal Work

  • Organized and led amicus effort that led to landmark CA Supreme Court decision that emails and texts sent from personal accounts and/or on personal devices are public records, if they concern government business. Following oral argument in which FAC participated, the Court held that such messages are subject to the California Public Records Act and that ownership of account or device is irrelevant.
  • Drafted and organized support for Proposition 59, the ballot measure that amended the CA Constitution to include a right of public access to government records.
  • Successfully sued the U.S. Department of Justice to disclose an unclassified version of legal memos analyzing “targeted killing” of an American citizen who joined Al Qaeda in Yemen.
  • Sued the CA State Bar for demographic data (in anonymized form) about applicants for bar admission. (Case pending)
  • Participated as amicus in secret FISA court proceeding opposing gag order and seeking to permit Google, Facebook and others to disclose the extent of National Security Agency access to their user data and content. (Favorable settlement)
  •  Sued Los Angeles over City Council member’s destruction of records subject to the California Public Records Act, seeking court mandate to preserve such records. (Case pending)
  • Successfully sued the California legislature for access to legislative database in format permitting meaningful analysis of campaign contributions. Favorable settlement was crucial for public interest co-plaintiff, MapLight.
  •  Successfully challenged Santa Clara County’s license fees for its GIS mapping database, establishing public access to city/county mapping data gathered or created by local governments.
  •  Successfully sued California Public Employees’ Retirement System for information on its hedge fund and venture capital investments.  Favorable settlement provided for ongoing disclosure of management fees, profits/losses, and other performance metrics. 
  • In another successful suit against CalPERS, forced the release of records about large real estate deals in which CalPERS’ investment was wiped out.
  • Successfully obtained San Diego Police Department records about an intrusive cell phone tracking device that had been misused by the Department.
  • Successfully obtained contract between Sonoma County and the Super Bowl for promotion for Sonoma County wines and hotels.
  • Successfully sued Board of Supervisors in Marin County for records regarding the drafting of a controversial environmental ordinance.
  • Successfully participated in CA public records case to rescue small newspaper publisher facing crippling court sanctions for having made a CPRA request for access. Court voided the sanctions and set a high barrier against government agencies’ seeking legal fees from CPRA requesters.
  • Successfully sued the LA Sheriff for information regarding public officials who are inmates of the County Jail—specifically, the names of persons who visit these inmates. 
  • Successfully sued city of Calabasas for inspection report on unoccupied residential properties potentially posing health risks to neighbors.
  • Petitioned the U.S. Trade Representative to challenge Chinese government’s censorship of U.S. internet companies as violation of World Trade Organization treaties – a position that was adopted years later by the U.S. State Department.
  • Successfully obtained public access to CA Governor’s records of meetings conducted by his top aides.
  • Filed amicus brief in U.S. Supreme Court case about First Amendment protection for a government employee who was fired after testifying in court about government agency misconduct.
  • Successfully challenged police seizure of a journalist’s computers as part of an investigation into the journalist’s possession of a pre-release iPhone prototype. Disclosure of the affidavits used to obtain the search warrant demonstrated that the prosecutor had not told the judge that the search target was a journalist.
  • Successfully sued for emails of the San Bernardino County assessor, who had been AWOL from his elected office. The released records contributed to prosecution of the assessor on political corruption charges.

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