Today, Rains Lucia Stern St. Phalle & Silver P.C. filed a petition for writ of mandate and request for immediate stay in the California Supreme Court to prohibit retroactive enforcement of Senate Bill 1421. If applied retroactively, the legislation would result in the public disclosure or production of peace officer personnel records and information regarding certain incidents or conduct occurring prior to the January 1, 2019 effective date of such legislation. This urgent legal challenge sought by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Employees’ Benefit Association (SEBA) seeks immediate relief from the California Supreme Court to enjoin any retroactive application of Senate Bill 1421 by the County of San Bernardino and all other public agencies throughout the State of California.
The lawful application of Senate Bill 1421 is an issue of great and statewide public importance, affecting thousands of peace officers employed by public agencies in every county, which requires a prompt and definitive resolution by the California Supreme Court. Senate Bill 1421 amends Penal Code Sections 832.7 and 832.8, by eliminating the long-established statutory confidentiality of specified peace officer and custodial officer personnel records, as well as information contained in such records. Senate Bill 1421 mandates statewide that such personnel records and information maintained by public agencies are subject to disclosure and otherwise available for public inspection pursuant to the California Public Records Act. Specifically, the records subject to disclosure under Senate Bill 1421 would include any incident involving discharge of a firearm, use of force, or sustained finding of sexual assault, dishonesty or false statements.
The legal challenge asserts that the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, and likely numerous other public agencies throughout the state, will produce confidential peace officer personnel records despite the absence of any express legislative direction for retroactivity in Senate Bill 1421, and in contravention of the well-established presumption against retroactive application of statutes in the absence of a clearly declared intention by the legislature.
Urgent relief is sought in the California Supreme Court in order to prevent irreparable harm and violation of the statutory and constitutional rights of peace officers to confidentiality of their peace officer personnel records and information pertaining to conduct occurring prior to the effective date of Senate Bill 1421. The issuance of extraordinary relief by the California Supreme Court is imperative in order to achieve a prompt and uniform resolution of this critical statewide legal issue.