Description: Lawsuit asserting that the University of California failed to comply with the California Public Records Act in response to requests for law professors' correspondence with the Massachusetts attorney general's office and certain donors.
Government Accountability & Oversight, P.C. v. Regents of the University of California
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 01/20/2022 Minute Order Download Petition denied in part and granted in part and respondent directed to provide supplemental declaration and log information. California Court Issued Mixed Ruling on Whether Law Professors Could Withhold Email Correspondence Under Public Records Act. In a lawsuit brought to compel disclosure under the California Public Records Act of certain correspondence of two UCLA environmental law professors, a California Superior Court ruled that the respondent was not required to disclose correspondence related to pre-publication academic research but found that the respondent had not met its burden to prove that it properly withheld other records. The party that sought the correspondence alleged that the records sought were related to recent climate litigation by municipalities and state attorneys general against energy companies and that the correspondence had been requested “for the purpose of understanding how state institutions are involved, if at all, in the larger effort feeding this litigation industry.” The court found the record to be inadequate to establish that the following categories of correspondence were properly withheld: pre-decisional internal discussions regarding how to raise funds from private sources; correspondence that contained “purely personal conversation,” including with a major donor; correspondence in the professors’ capacities as board members of unaffiliated environmental organizations. The court found that there was at least some reasonable probability that the respondent could meet its burden through submittal of more specific supplemental declarations regarding the withheld documents. 11/22/2021 Opposition Download Petitioner filed opposition to Climate Science Legal Defense Fund ex parte application for permission to file amicus curiae brief. 11/19/2021 Amicus Brief Download Proposed amicus brief filed by Climate Science Legal Defense Fund in support of the respondent. 11/12/2021 Brief Download Respondent filed opposition brief on the merits to petition for writ of mandate. 10/15/2021 Brief Download Opening trial brief filed by petitioner. 05/18/2021 Order Motion for order advancing dates for expert witness disclosures denied in part and respondent's motion for protective order granted in part; respondent's motion for sanctions denied. The court denied petitioner's motion to advance the dates for expert witness disclosures to the extent the motion was based on a demand for expert information related to the University's withholding of documents such as emails containing "purely personal" conversations as non-public records. In addition, the court denied the motion as it related to pre-decision internal discussions and pre-publication academic research in which the public interest in non-disclosure clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure. With respect to the withholding of documents based on the balancing of the public's interests, the court made its ruling without prejudice to the petitioner request expert depositions at a later time. 05/04/2020 Petition for Writ of Mandate Download Petitioner filed first amended verified petition for peremptory writ of mandate and writ of mandate ordering compliance with the California Public Records Act. In its amended petition, the petitioner asserted that the University of California violated the California Public Records Act and open government provisions in the California Constitution in its response to requests for "records concerning the University's work with private outside parties including law enforcement to develop theories of litigation against, and pursue as targets of investigation, perceived opponents of a political and policy agenda (the 'Climate Change Agenda') shared by these outside parties and certain faculty, and the University's Emmett Institute on Climate Change the Environment." In particular, the requests sought two law professors' correspondence with certain parties, including two individuals "principally responsible for underwriting these efforts" and a state attorney general's office.