Thursday, May 11, 2017

How the California Public Records Act Is Being Killed

Last week, in Casas v. City of Baldwin Park, I filed a California Supreme Court Petition, asking our Supreme Court to take the case, because the court of appeals held that governments can say I-don't-have-records as a defense to not releasing them, despite having a court order. This defense is apparently true even when the government is lying about not having records. And although the state legislature and our Supreme Court says that they're supposed to assist us to find records, our appellate court said it's ok if city officials don't. I argued to the court they can't allow for this, because if the court allowed for this, governments will start lying about not having records. The court only asked, whether I had a published study to prove this. 

In any event, I'm not holding my breath about the High Court taking the petition. On average, they take 60-80 cases a year, and there could be up to 8,000 filings. So, that's a 1% to 3% chance. But I'd like to explain the importance of open records law, and how it's being killed.

The reason that we have open records law is because the governments tax us. We have to give them a part of our labor. So the theory is that because we're taxed, we should be able to know how elected officials are spending our money. And we should be able to know and voice our knowledge (which is part of our Free Speech right); so, that we can elect and vote out our elected officials. As our revolutionary forefathers said, "No taxation without representation." Because the power to tax, is also the power to destroy. Thus, knowing the truth about our tax money is derived because we're taxed. If we weren't taxed, we'd have no such rights.

Thus, if we're not able to know the truth, how could we ever vote people out who are misspending our tax money or stealing it for themselves and their friends and family? The answer is we can't, and these people can keep stealing our taxpayer money and the citizens in the end suffer. In essence, each of us have more of our labor taken from us. (Ever think about why at the end of the month, you don't have enough money to pay the bills? It's because of paying taxes to public agencies like Baldwin Park.) And, as a society, we become shamefully incapable of producing businesses, services, products, or any kind of scientific innovation. (This is exactly what's happening in the City of Baldwin Park.)

As per the Casas's cases, we see a new trend emerging. The legal battle doesn't appear to be so much about what can or cannot be released. It's more about how to enforce such rights, when one receives the vested right from the courts to have records. How does one enforce such rights against government?

Well, according to the law, it has to be through the courts. But what governments are now doing, when you ask for records that can prove corruption and malfeasance, is saying they don't have records, even when they do. Apart from self-help (which governments discourage: of course, which is why the Los Angeles Riots happened), courts are the only bodies that could help. But with these last cases, at least in California, they don't appear interested in enforcing records laws against cities like Baldwin Park, who don't want to release records. 

Think about this for a second. Why doesn't the Mayor and his gang not want to release records? Because, it probably proves how much money is being misspent. And that's our money. Not theirs. It should be spent on bettering the lives of the people, not their own lives.

In any event, law is worthless if it can't be enforced. (Look at places like India or Afghanistan. They say child labor and marriage is outlawed, but in practice, it's still happening.) And I think in the near future, this will be the new battle field in open records law, not questions about the law itself but about how to enforce it against people like mayors and council people. 

Is there a solution? According to Alex Kozinski, Ninth Circuit judge, who is fed up with lies from prosecutors, there needs to be more accountability for prosecutors who lie. Likewise, I honestly believe that government officials and administrators who lie to us under the penalty of perjury should be tried for a felony with the risk of being sent to prison or be opened up to the possibility of being sued personally (so they could pay for their own legal fees and damages). The people of Iceland did just that to the bankers and government officials and administrators who robbed them; hence, such actions are in the realm of possibilities. I think that'd stop the bad behavior pretty fast. But the court's at this point are disagreeing with me. 

All this reminds me of the words of philosopher Nietzche, who said, "“Everything the [Government] says is a lie, and everything it has it has stolen.” 

1 comment:

  1. It's a day for justice that the former Sheriff of the largest police force, Lee Baca, was sentenced today. The unrepentant Sheriff is still defensive of lying to the feds. Let's hope he gets sentenced to prison sooner than later.