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Housley v. Ventura County

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  1. Freedom of Information

Court: California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division Six

Date Filed: April 17, 2023

Background: Several news organizations submitted requests under the California Public Records Act to Ventura County seeking autopsy reports of people who died during the 2018 mass shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, California.

Families of victims of the shooting sought to block the disclosure of the records by filing what is known as a reverse-CPRA lawsuit against Ventura County. The Superior Court determined that the autopsy reports are subject to disclosure under the public records law and that the victims’ families are not entitled to a preliminary injunction to prevent their disclosure.

The families of the victims then appealed to the California Court of Appeal.

Our Position: The California Court of Appeal should affirm the Superior Court’s decision.

  • There is significant public interest in access to autopsy reports; adopting the arguments of the victims’ families would severely limit access to this important category of records.
  • The arguments of the victims’ families, if accepted, would place California among the least transparent jurisdictions for access to autopsy records.

Quote: “Autopsy reports are necessary to ensuring public oversight of government operations when the importance of such oversight is at its zenith: after members of the public have lost their lives. And though the underlying records sought by Media Respondents here concern an undeniably tragic event, access to autopsy records is particularly needed following tragic circumstances. To accept Appellants’ argument would block this key mechanism for accountability.”

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