gavel

By Jessica Calefati
jcalefati@bayareanewsgroup.com
Posted: 05/01/2015 – 01:23:42 PM PDT
Updated: 05/01/2015 – 03:05:46 PM PDT

SACRAMENTO — A groundbreaking tentative court ruling that orders the release of two disgraced state lawmakers’ appointment schedules has sparked “great consternation” at the Capitol, an attorney for the Legislature told a judge Friday.

Attorney Fred Woocher’s comments came during a hearing held a day after Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny upheld a lawsuit filed by the Bay Area News Group and Los Angeles News Group seeking calendars and other records maintained by former state senators Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, and Ron Calderon, D-Montebello. The two were indicted last year on corruption charges.

“There are 120 legislators under the assumption that their calendars are confidential,” said Woocher, who is fighting to have the tentative ruling reversed.

The Legislature has argued that lawmakers’ appointment schedules should be kept private to ensure their safety — as well as their ability to engage with an array of stakeholders on thorny policy issues without being hindered by fear of public scrutiny about which advocates get to meet with legislators.

And for the first time, Woocher argued that Yee and Calderon’s calendars shouldn’t be released because they’re “categorically exempt” from public records laws that require disclosure, meaning they shouldn’t be released under any circumstances.

“Even if the court were to engage in balancing, the balance weighs against disclosure,” Woocher said. “Disclosure of these records has no value.”

But in the cases of Yee and Calderon — who have been charged with crimes that include public corruption, racketeering, weapons trafficking, mail fraud and money laundering — the public’s right to know more about their wrongdoing outweighs any need for secrecy, Kenny wrote in the tentative ruling.

“To the extent these alleged activities occurred under the guise of the legislators’ official duties is even more concerning,” Kenny wrote.

Friday’s hearing offered both sides a last chance to seek modifications to the tentative ruling or to change the judge’s mind entirely.

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