Los Angeles, February 1, 2024 – The Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA) has filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón, alleging a systematic and deliberate failure to comply with the California Public Records Act (“CPRA”), the state version of the Freedom of Information Act. The ADDA, representing the interests of over 750 Deputy District Attorneys, contends that Gascón’s failure to comply with the law and to provide documents contradicts his professed commitment to transparency.
Michele Hanisee, President of the ADDA, remarked, “The public must be aware of George Gascón’s lack of transparency. His calculated and persistent refusal to comply with California’s freedom of information law is one of the worst examples of that, but it’s not the only one. Voters deserve to know his entire record before they vote.”
Numerous CPRA requests directed to the Custodian of Records within District Attorney Gascón’s office, the person designated to handle such requests, have gone unanswered. The 88-page complaint filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court outlines instances where Gascón cited improper and nonexistent legal justifications to duck his mandated disclosure obligations. The lawsuit also reveals instances in which Gascón selectively turned over some documents while claiming it was overly burdensome to turn over others.
In one specific case, Gascón claimed it was overly burdensome to disclose communications related to his decision to hire particular individuals. Despite the disagreement, ADDA narrowed its request to focus only on documents referring to Alex Bastian and Maxwell Szabo for a 20-day period. Similarly, the request concerning the hiring of Tiffiny Blacknell, Alisa Blair, and Shelan Joseph was refined to a 12-day period. Notably, Gascón failed to cite any statute supporting claims of privilege or confidentiality, rendering the delays and refusals unjustifiable.
Ryan Erlich, Vice President of the ADDA, added, “George Gascón is quick to take credit for other prosecutors’ victories, but he’s even quicker to hide his failures. We’re using California’s freedom of information law to ask about some of those failures. A million-dollar-plus no-bid contract with little work to show for it, outside consultants calling the shots on policy and staffing, serious cases handled and dismissed in secret (with seven-figure judgments), and political allies appointed to high-ranking and high-paid public positions. Why is he running from public disclosure on these issues? What’s he got to hide?”
It’s disheartening that legal action is necessary to obtain public documents from the District Attorney. The California Public Records Act explicitly mandates that public institutions promptly make copies of public records available without unnecessary delays. Unfortunately, George Gascón continues violating the CPRA, failing to provide the requested documents promptly and unlawfully prolonging the response process.
The Brown Green & Shinee and The Gibbons Firm are representing the ADDA in this legal action. To view a copy of the lawsuit, click here.