The California Supreme Court has cleared the way for public disclosure of governmental legal costs in ongoing lawsuits where school districts, cities or other public agencies refuse to reveal the bills before litigation is complete.
In Orange County and other jurisdictions, governmental agencies have frequently declined to disclose the costs of ongoing litigation, contending such legal bills are exempt under the California Public Records Act.
But in its Feb. 20 ruling on a Los Angeles lawsuit, the court affirmed a published appellate decision in which judges decided that legal fees can be disclosed when a public records request is made during active litigation.
Terry Franke, an attorney for Californians Aware, an open-access organization in Sacramento, said, “This case properly ends an abuse too often employed to conceal from the public just how much of its money is being spent by lawyers.”
The court decision removes a ploy used by the Orange County Department of Education and a number of the county's 28 school districts to deny disclsure of litigation costs when fighting cases against families seeking special education for youths with disabilities under federal and state laws.
Last year, Voice of OC ran a series of articles showing how school districts were spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight families over services that sometimes cost only a few thousand dollars. Such legal battles also created enormous hardships for families and limited options for children with autism and other serious developmental disabilities.
Read more of Rex Dalton's Voice of OC article HERE.