The landmark California Racial Justice Act, passed in 2020, prohibits the state from pursuing convictions or sentences based upon race, ethnicity, or national origin and allows people to challenge proceedings that may have been tainted by racial bias. But for the law to be effective, the public must be able to access policies and data from prosecutors.
As part of its effort to monitor compliance with the Racial Justice Act by all 58 district attorneys in the state, the ACLU Foundation of Northern California submitted separate requests to the Orange County DA for prosecutorial data in February 2021 and again in February 2022, and for related policies, practices, and training materials in July 2021; while the ACLU Foundation of Southern California submitted a request for prosecutorial data related to sex work in September 2021 and the volunteer community group Chicanxs Unidxs submitted a request for prosecutorial data related to the Racial Justice Act this past July.
In all five instances, the OCDA refused to produce any data and asserted overbroad and unsupported exemptions. In response to all four requests for prosecutorial data, the OCDA denied disclosure of records due to formatting, claiming that the county does not maintain records in the format requested.
Chicanxs Unidxs, the ACLU Foundations of Southern California and Northern California, and the Peace and Justice Law Center filed suit against OCDA Todd Spitzer for violating the state's Public Records Act by refusing to release documents concerning the county's implementation of the Racial Justice Act.
Plaintiffs filed the complaint in State Superior Court in Orange County. The suit asks that the court compel the OCDA to comply with the PRA and fulfill the five requests by plaintiffs. The lawsuit also asks the court to order the OCDA to take affirmative steps in publishing certain public data regularly online. Read the complaint.