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The California Supreme Court Takes Up The ‘Brady List’ Case

A Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputy sits in a patrol car in a file photo from 2016
A Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputy sits in a patrol car in a file photo from 2016
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

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The California Supreme Court Wednesday hears oral arguments in what could be a landmark police transparency case: The justices are weighing whether the L.A. County Sheriff's Department can share the names of deputies who might have credibility problems with the District Attorney.

It all started three years ago, when former Sheriff Jim McDonnell tried to provide the DA with the names of 300 deputies found to have engaged in misconduct that might raise questions about their credibility when testifying in court.

The collection of names is called a Brady list, after the landmark 1963 U.S. Supreme Court case Brady v. Maryland, which established that prosecutors must turn over to the defense any evidence that might point to a defendant's innocence.

The Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs sued to block McDonnell's move, arguing that turning over the list would violate California's Peace Officer Bill of Rights, which prohibits the release of any officer-related information unless a certain procedure is followed.

The procedure is the "Pitchess" process. It allows a judge to decide which information, if any, about an officer is released, and says officers' privacy must be protected.

McDonnell and the county held that Brady, which establishes "an affirmative constitutional duty" to share potentially exculpatory information, trumps Pitchess.

A state appeals court ruled in the union's favor in July 2017, ordering that the list remain secret. The county appealed to the state supreme court.

We check in with our criminal justice and public safety reporter Frank Stoltze on the latest from this morning’s oral argument.

To read more of this story on LAist, click here.


Frank Stoltze, KPCC’s criminal justice and public safety correspondent