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  • Rachel quoted in: “State High Court to Cops: No, You Can’t Charge $3,000 for Body Camera Videos”

    KQED article on the May 28 California Supreme Court decision

    “. . . . The ruling is much more than an affirmation for those advocating for increased access to public records, and its reach goes far beyond Hayward’s body camera videos from 2014.

    ‘As we see from the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis just this week, and other killings, police violence is as much of an issue today as it was in 2014 when we requested this body camera video,’ said Rachel Lederman, a civil rights attorney and former head of the National Lawyers Guild’s Bay Area Chapter. ‘This is a great ruling.’

    It’s likely to change the landscape regarding access to police body camera footage and other internal law enforcement files that must be released under two recent state laws that grant broader public access, Senate Bill 1421 and Assembly Bill 748.

    The laws both took effect last year. SB 1421 requires police agencies, for the first time in 40 years, to provide records from internal investigations into serious uses of force by law enforcement officers. It similarly requires police agencies to disclose records from misconduct investigations involving allegations of sexual assault and dishonesty against officers. Those investigations often include multimedia files, including audio recordings of interrogations and video from surveillance cameras and body cameras.

    AB 748 generally requires law enforcement agencies to release video of “critical incidents,” including police shootings, within 45 days.

    Over the past year, many law enforcement agencies have provided those files at reasonable or no cost. But some have not.

    In response to records requests from a coalition of news organizations, including KQED, the Bakersfield Police Department has provided text documents related to nearly 40 police shootings, 65 additional serious uses of force, seven investigations into officer dishonesty and two sexual assault cases. . . .

    Citing the provision of state law at issue in the National Lawyers Guild case, Bakersfield quoted a cost of $110.36 per hour of multimedia content, estimating that each shooting case contained an average of 15 hours of audio or video files. Therefore, obtaining video from any incident would cost requestors an estimated $6,621.60, or more than $250,000 just for the shooting cases. The news organizations could not afford to pay, and the files remain hidden from public view.

    The Supreme Court ruling Thursday appears to prohibit that charge. The court likens preparation of such videos for production to redacting text records.

    ‘[I]n video-editing terms, what (Hayward) did was not substantively different from using an electronic tool to draw black boxes over exempt material contained in a document in electronic format,” the ruling says. “What (Hayward) did was simply perform redactions of an otherwise producible record, albeit through technologically more advanced means.'”

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    State Supreme Court Rules in Favor of NLG in Police Body Camera Records Case

    Today, in litigation brought by the National Lawyers Guild, San Francisco Bay Area Chapter (“NLGSF”), the California Supreme Court decided that public agencies may not charge the public for the cost of redacting electronic records under the California Public Records Act (“CPRA”). The decision in National Lawyers Guild v. City of Hayward, S252445, covers the wide array of public records that are kept in electronic formats.

    In January 2015, NLGSF requested police body camera videos and other records from the Hayward police department related to its activities at a December 2014 Black Lives Matter demonstration in Berkeley, when Hayward officers shot a Black demonstrator with “less lethal” munitions. Hayward eventually turned over the videos, which revealed HPD officers shooting at peaceful protesters while making remarks such as, “They are f—-ing animals”; “I got it up right now ready to go mother—-ers” and “Get a shot in his f—-ing ass”. To obtain the videos, however, Hayward charged NLGSF $3,247.47 for the cost of editing the videos to redact supposed protected information.

    The CPRA does not generally allow agencies to charge a fee to redact records, but Hayward argued that Cal. Gov. Code § 6253.9 did permit it to charge fees this for electronic records where “data compilation, extraction, or programming” was required. NLGSF, represented by the ACLU and attorney Amitai Schwartz, challenged the fees in the Superior Court and prevailed.

    Hayward appealed the Alameda County Superior Court decision. The First District Court of Appeal found that, while an agency cannot charge to redact paper records, § 6253.9 does allow an agency to charge a requester for its redaction of electronic records in some circumstances. In the wake of the appellate decision, agencies across the state claimed the right to withhold public emails and other electronic records unless requestors could pay hundreds or thousands of dollars in redaction fees. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that “Just as agencies cannot recover the costs of searching through a filing cabinet for paper records, they cannot recover comparable costs for electronic records. Nor, for similar reasons, does “extraction” cover the cost of redacting exempt data from otherwise producible electronic records.” The Court reasoned that what Hayward’s staff did to edit the videos “was not substantively different from using an electronic tool to draw black boxes over exempt material contained in a document in electronic format.”

    “Today’s California Supreme Court decision is an important victory for government transparency in California,” said Rachel Lederman, the civil rights attorney who requested the videos on behalf of NLGSF. “As we see from the police killing of George Floyd just this week, and so many others, police racist violence is as much of an issue today as it was in 2014. Body cameras can’t fully serve their function of promoting police accountability if it is prohibitively expensive for the public to access the videos.”

    “What was at stake here is the public’s right to know what its government is doing, including what its police are doing on the streets. The Public Records Act is designed to provide access to these records. Since almost all records are now kept in electronic form, permitting government to charge for redactions would have gutted the intent of the Public Records Act and closed off many electronic records to public scrutiny,” said Amitai Schwartz, the attorney who litigated the case and argued it in the Supreme Court.

  • San Francisco Tenants & COVID-19

    Are you a San Francisco tenant who can’t pay rent because of COVID-19?

    Learn more about how you can be protected, and what you need to do, by watching this video from our friends at Legal Assistance for the Elderly (the info applies to all ages). Scroll down for a sample letter to send your landlord.

    Sample COVID-19 Moratorium letter to your landlord (ENGLISH)

    Carta de Moratoria al Propietario Debido a COVID-19 (Español)


    How Will I Pay Back the Rent?

    Even if you are currently protected from eviction for nonpayment of rent, you will eventually be required to pay back the rent you owe.

    Tenants protected under the moratorium will be given six months from the date that Mayor Breed’s Order expires to pay back rent.

    Mayor Breed’s Order remains in effect until April 22, 2020 unless extended by an additional 30 days.

  • Statewide rent control in Oregon!

    Oregon is poised to become the first state in the nation to impose statewide limits on how much landlords can raise rents after state lawmakers passed a sweeping measure on Tuesday.
    Read more here

  • San Francisco Eviction Control Law Strengthened

    The SF Board of Supervisors has passed a new ordinance to protect tenants in single family homes, which are not covered by rent control. Landlords of single family homes and condos cannot give tenants a huge rent increase in order to evict them without just cause, anymore. This was a loophole which allowed such landlords to circumvent eviction controls by raising the rent to force the tenants to move. Here’s an article on why this was needed.

  • Rachel Lederman in the news as Standing Rock criminal cases wrap up

    Rachel is quoted in a major AP piece on Water Protector Legal Collective. WPLC has just wrapped up almost 850 criminal cases stemming from the indigenous-led resistance to the Dakota Access oil pipeline at Standing Rock in 2016-2017. Regarding the ongoing civil rights lawsuit over law enforcement violence against the water protectors, “We are determined to press on for justice, no matter how long it takes,” said legal collective board member Rachel Lederman, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs.
    The same article ran in the Washington Post, MN Star Tribune, ABC News, CBS News, US News, Seattle Times, Tampa Bay Times, and local and regional news outlets across the country.
    Another good article on this, in the Fargo-based High Plains Reader:
  • You may be able to lower your rent due to past owner move-in eviction fraud

    san-francisco-streets-wallpaper-4NBC’s Investigative Unit mapped out every owner move-in eviction in San Francisco over the past three years. You can use the interactive map toward the bottom of this article to find evictions in your neighborhood. While many of these evictions are legal, if your address is listed and you are not the landlord or a relative of the property owner, someone may have been wrongfully evicted from that unit, which might entitle you to lock in the previous tenant’s cheaper rent.

    If your address is listed, contact NBC, 888-996-TIPS (including anonymously), or email them here; report to the City to request a rent reduction.

  • UC Berkeley professor fired nearly two years after sexual harassment claims substantiated

    The University of California has fired the professor who sexually harassed four students represented by our office along with several of our Oakland Law Collaborative colleagues, other lawyers, nearly two years after campus investigators first concluded he had made unwanted advances and violated school policies. Read the Guardian article.

    EB KG

  • Water Protectors Go To 8th Circuit Court of Appeals

    Our client Vanessa Dundon is interviewed in this article about the appeal in our class action lawsuit against North Dakota law enforcement for excessive force.

    Nov 20



  • Paramilitary Security Tracked and Targeted DAPL Opponents as “Jihadists”, Docs Show

    As people nationwide rallied last year to support the Standing Rock Sioux’s attempts to block the Dakota Access Pipeline, a private security firm with experience fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan launched an intrusive military-style surveillance and counterintelligence campaign against the activists and their allies, according to internal company documents. Read full article here.

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