SAN FRANCISCO, CALIF. (GLOUCESTERCITYNEWS.NET)(AUG. 21, 2019)--The First Amendment Coalition today continued its fight for transparency in the police raid on a San Francisco journalist, filing a lawsuit over city officials’ refusal to release public records.
FAC sued the San Francisco Police Department and Mayor London Breed under the California Public Records Act and San Francisco Sunshine Ordinance, an effort to vindicate the public’s right to understand the political and law-enforcement decisions that led to the now infamous May 10 search of journalist Bryan Carmody’s home and office, resulting in the seizure of a vast trove of constitutionally protected information.
“City leaders have made an awful situation worse by stonewalling our requests for records related to the Carmody debacle,” said FAC Executive Director David Snyder. “They have already violated the constitutional rights of a journalist, and now they are refusing to give the public key communications about the decision-making that led to these actions.”
Beginning in June, FAC made a series of records requests regarding the investigation into the Feb. 22 death of San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi and the subsequent probe of a leaked police report, which led police to execute five search warrants on Carmody, a freelance journalist who contributed to coverage of Adachi’s death.
The city’s responses to FAC’s records requests were inadequate and incomplete, leaving the public largely in the dark about decisions that triggered the egregious invasion of press freedoms. As FAC’s lawsuit details:
- Mayor Breed’s office produced no records for the months of February and March; just two records from April; no records from any personal communications devices; and no records of communications directly involving the mayor.
- SFPD issued a blanket denial for records on the grounds of an ongoing investigation, which stood in direct contradiction to public statements made by Chief Bill Scott about the conclusion of any criminal investigation into Carmody and strained credulity given the Medical Examiner’s March 22 announcement that Adachi’s death was accidental.
FAC is asking a judge to order the SFPD and mayor to comply with city and state open records laws by conducting adequate searches for the requested records, including of personal devices and accounts, producing all of the requested records, or, alternatively, disclosing the existence of records via a log with the reasons those records are exempt from public release.
Separately, FAC has waged a months-long legal battle, alongside two press advocacy groups, to make public search warrant applications issued for Carmody’s home, office and phone. FAC's lawsuit filed today is a new action seeking additional public records.
The petition for writ of mandate was filed in San Francisco Superior Court by Karl Olson, of the firm Cannata, O’Toole, Fickes & Olson, and two lawyers with the First Amendment Coalition.