DA Spitzer stonewalled requests for data for years.
SANTA ANA - In a hearing held yesterday, Orange County Superior Court Judge Schwarm rejected District Attorney Todd Spitzer's efforts to prohibit all public access to prosecutorial data. In the hearing, the attorneys for DA Spitzer did not contest the court’s tentative opinion and committed to produce prosecutorial data within 30 days.
Prior to the enactment of the Racial Justice Act (RJA) the OCDA readily disclosed prosecutorial data pursuant to the Public Records Act (PRA) upon request. However, in early 2021, weeks after the RJA entered into force, the DA reversed course and established as office-wide policy a prohibition on access to all prosecutorial data. Yesterday, the court rejected this policy by recognizing that the PRA requires disclosure of anonymized prosecutorial data.
Chicanxs Unidxs de Orange County, the ACLU Foundations of Southern California and Northern California, and the Peace and Justice Law Center brought a case challenging the DA’s violations of the PRA on October 18, 2022, resulting in the court’s tentative opinion. The court scheduled a status conference to determine the OCDA’s further compliance with the PRA for September 26 and a subsequent hearing on December 19.
Please attribute the following statement to Gabriela Hernandez of plaintiff Chicanxs Unidxs:
“For two years now, the OCDA has illegally hid Racial Justice Act data from the public. The court has made it clear OCDA owes the public that data. Chicanxs Unidxs will use this information to help the people overcharged by Spitzer’s office to make sure they get fair treatment in court. When we filed the lawsuit, Spitzer’s office said it was a ‘frivolous lawsuit’ and ‘completely divorced from reality.’ What happened in court shows that was a lie.”
Please attribute the following statement to Emi MacLean, senior staff attorney at the ACLU Foundation of Northern California, and counsel for plaintiffs:
"Injustice thrives in secrecy. For years, DA Spitzer has tried to hide information from the public about how his office prosecutes people. Yesterday, a judge finally rejected those efforts. DA Spitzer will now start producing important records critical to implementing the Racial Justice Act. Transparency has won. This victory is critical to accountability and the public's right to know what prosecutors are doing in our name."