Special counsel Tenaya Rodewald and a team at Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton last week extended an impressive string of wins in California state courts in cases involving access to records of police misconduct and significant uses of force. On Thursday, a trial court in Contra Costa County issued a tentative ruling largely adopting arguments the Sheppard Mullin lawyers made on behalf of pro bono client the First Amendment Coalition about just what sorts of records should be released under SB 1421, a law passed in 2018 that opened certain police records up to disclosure under existing California public records law.

One of the court’s central findings was that police forces shouldn’t withhold records of a “sustained finding” of misconduct or sexual assault by an individual officer due to some negotiated settlement agreement revoking the finding. “If a sustained finding is made, the agency and the officer cannot undo that historical fact by private agreement,” the court held.