LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPARTMENT et al., Petitioners,
SUPERIOR COURT of the State of California, FOR the COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES,
CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY OF CALIFORNIA, Real Party in Interest.
Court of Appeal, Second District, Division 2, California.
Jan. 5, 1977.
As Modified on Denial of Rehearing Feb. 2, 1977.
Los Angeles police department requested writ of mandate to set aside order of
the Superior Court, County of Los Angeles, requiring the police department to
furnish answers to certain written interrogatories. The Court of Appeal, Roth,
P.J., held that since police department records concerning any investigations
of church were in all likelihood exempt from disclosure under the Public
Records Act the church, seeking to have such records declared public records,
was not entitled to compel answers to interrogatories about those records.
Petition granted and peremptory writ of mandate issued.
If record is a public record all persons have access thereto as permitted by
the Public Records Act, and a person who may be the subject of particular
record sought does not, because he is personally affected, have any greater
right than any person to examine record and, conversely, subject person has no
right to prevent disclosure of record to any other person. West's
Ann.Gov.Code, ss 6250-6261.
Public Records Act was enacted with objective of increasing freedom of
information and it is designed to give public access to information in
possession of public agencies. West's Ann.Gov.Code, ss 6250-6261.
 PRETRIAL PROCEDURE
When principal action itself seeks records which are in all likelihood not
discoverable under the Public Records Act because of specific exemption or
public interest, interrogatories which seek information about these records
should not be permitted. West's Ann.Gov.Code, ss 6250-6261.
 PRETRIAL PROCEDURE
Church whose actions sought disclosure of any records with Los Angeles police
department concerning the church's activities and activities of its founder to
be declared public records open to public inspection and in all likelihood such
records were exempt from disclosure under the specific statutory exemption
provided for records of complaints to or investigations conducted by or records
of intelligence information or security procedures of any local police agency,
church was not entitled to compel answers to interrogatories seeking
information about the records. West's Ann.Gov.Code, s 6254(f).
*663 **576 Burt Pines, City Atty., Hilary F. Goldstone, Deputy City
Atty., for petitioners.
Law Offices of Mark V. Kaplan, Sherman Oaks, for real party in interest.
Fred Okrand, Jill Jakes, Los Angeles, Mark D. Rosenbaum, Beverly Hills, Gary
D. Sowards, Santa Monica, for amicus curiae.
No appearance for respondent.
*664 ROTH, Presiding Justice.
Government Code, [FN1] sections 6250 through 6261, comprise the
California Public Records Act (Act). Section 6250 recites in part:
FN1. All Code references herein made are to the Government Code unless
'* * * the Legislature, mindful of the right of individuals to privacy, finds
and declares that access to Information concerning the conduct of the people's
business is a fundamental and necessary right of every person in this state.'
Act is a group of integrated sections which generally define public records
and the rights of any person to inspect, copy and receive copies of such
records. (ss 6250, 6252, 6253, 6253.5, 6254.7, 6254.8.)
Section 6254, however, lists 14 separate types of records which are by
legislative fiat exempt from disclosure. Section 6254, as is relevant here,
'* * * nothing in this chapter (Act) shall be construed to require disclosure
of records that are: * * *
(f) Records of complaints to or investigations conducted by, or records of
intelligence information or security procedures of, * * * any * * * local
police agency, * * *' (referred to herein as Exemption (f)). [FN2]
FN2. It is clear from one of the cases strongly relied on by Church,
Black Panther Party v. Kehoe, 42 Cal.App.3d 645, 117 Cal.Rptr. 106, that
the legislature meant to make certain types of records exempt from
disclosure. Thus, Justice Friedman says at page 655, 117 Cal.Rptr. at
'If citizenship in a functioning democracy requires general access to
government files, limited but genuine interests also demand restricted
areas of Non-access.' (Emphasis added.)
Real Party in Interest, Church of Scientology (Church) instituted this action
against petitioner, Los Angeles Police Department (Department) under the
authority of Act and seeks to have any records which Department maintains of
its activities and the activities of its founder declared to be public records
free from any exemption and open for public inspection.
The summary exemption provided for in Exemption (f) [FN3] in section 6254
is reiterated **577 in section 6255. In addition, however, section 6255
provides for the withholding of any record embraced in Act which is not
specifically exempted by section 6254 if public interest in non-disclosure
FN3. A helpful explanation of section 6254(f) is set out in Younger
v. Berkeley City Council (1975) 45 Cal.App.3d 825, 832, 119 Cal.Rptr. 830,
'Ordinarily all criminal offender record information, including that
compiled by the Berkeley Police Department, is confidential and not
'public' or subject to disclosure. (Gov.Code, s 6254, subd. (f);
People v. Wilkins (1955) 135 Cal.App.2d 371, 377, 287 P.2d 555.) While
the Attorney General conceded in this case that the City of Berkeley could
permit whatever access the city council deemed appropriate in the case of
arrest records compiled by the Berkeley Police Department, the same does
not apply to records compiled by the State Department of Justice,
particularly where Penal Code sections 11077 and 11079 contemplate a
continuing state interest in those records.'
The special nature of records such as the alleged records at bench is
further explained in Younger in a comment distinguishing Uribe v.
Howie (1971) 19 Cal.App.3d 194, 96 Cal.Rptr. 493 a case relied upon by
'Uribe dealt with a routine report in a public file. It could gain
exemption not because of its content but only when and if it became a part
of an investigatory file. Here, by their very content, the criminal
records compiled by the State Department of Justice are independently
entitled to exemption. (See Black Panther Party v. Kehoe (1974) 42
Cal.App.3d 645, 654, 117 Cal.Rptr. 106.)'
*665 Section 6255 provides:
'The agency shall justify withholding any record by demonstrating that the
record in question Is exempt under express provisions of this chapter Or that
on the facts of the particular case the public interest served by not making
the record public clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure of
the record.' (Emphasis added.)
The procedure which enables any person to obtain judicial relief from a
wrongful denial of access to public records is set out in section 6258:
'Any person may institute proceedings for injunctive or declarative relief in
any court of competent jurisdiction to enforce his right to inspect or to
receive a copy of any public record or class of public records under this
chapter. The times for responsive pleadings and for hearings in such
proceedings shall be set by the judge of the court with the object of securing
a decision as to such matters at the earliest possible time.'
Section 6259 provides in pertinent part:
'Whenever it is made to appear by verified petition to the superior court of
the county where the records or some part thereof are situated that certain
public records are being improperly withheld from a member of the public, the
court shall order the officer or person charged with withholding the records to
disclose the public record or show cause why he should not do so. The court
shall decide the case after examining the record in camera, if permitted by
subdivision (b) of Section 915 of the Evidence Code, papers filed by the
parties and such oral argument and additional evidence as the court may allow.
'If the court finds that the public official's decision to refuse disclosure
is not justified under the provisions of Section 6254 or 6255, he shall
order the public official to make the record public. If the judge
*666 determines that the public official was justified in refusing to make
the record public, he shall return the item to the public official without
disclosing its content with an order supporting the decision refusing
disclosure. Any person who fails to obey the order of the court shall be cited
to show cause why he is not in contempt of court. * * *.'
After Church had filed its action, an application for a temporary injunction
requiring disclosure was denied on the ground there was no showing that the
records sought were not expressly exempt from disclosure by reason of
Exemption (f). Prior to the conclusion of the argument for a temporary
injunction and its denial, the following exchange took place between the court
and counsel for Church:
'THE COURT: What about this problem: these cases which involved
administrative agencies did not deal with situations where you have a police
department maintaining, quote, 'intelligence information,' so, of course, the
court wasn't dealing with that type of situation. And yet the statute
specifically recognizes that there can be such a thing as intelligence
'MR. IVENER: Yes.
'THE COURT: What must be the statutory intent regarding that?
'MR. IVENER: Well, the statutory intent relating to intelligence files and
relating **578 to investigatory files is that they are exempt. * * *.'
Church did not appeal the order denying a temporary injunction. Church did,
however, initiate the discovery proceedings before us by filing and serving on
Department certain interrogatories. Department refused to answer the
interrogatories; [FN4] Church moved for an order requiring responses. The
court treated the issue as if it were a conditional privilege under Evidence
Code section 1040; deferred ruling on the question of privilege as embraced in
section 1040 of the Evidence Code until time of trial and then ordered the
cited interrogatories answered and directed discovery to proceed. Petitioner's
request for a writ of mandate to set aside that order is before us.
FN4. These interrogatories are:
'INTERROGATORY $9: Has the Defendant (Department) determined, at any time
within the period commencing January 1, 1969 to the present, that the
CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY OF CALIFORNIA, or any Scientology organization, has
engaged, or is engaging, in acts disruptive of the public order as that
term is defined in the Guidelines of the Public Disorder Intelligence
Division of the Los Angeles Police Department.
'INTERROGATORY $10: If the answer to Interrogatory $9 is affirmative,
please state the following:
(a) Is a file presently maintained by the Public Disorder Intelligence
Division relating to the determination hereinabove referred in
(b) The date of the last entry of any such file hereinabove referred in
'INTERROGATORY $11: If the answer to Interrogatory $10(a) is affirmative,
(a) The person(s), if any, and title thereof, who conducted a review of any
such file since April 10, 1975.
(b) The date upon which such review(s) was conducted.'
*667 Church's verified complaint to require disclosure and its declarations
and documents filed in support of its motion for the temporary injunction,
which was denied, clearly establish that the records which it seeks, if they in
fact exist as claimed, are the type which are embraced in Exemption (f). The
complaint refers repeatedly to 'information, documents, reports and Records'
(emphasis added) which are being allegedly maintained by Department and which
relate to Church; and, in oral argument upon the motion for preliminary
injunction, Church's attorney admitted that 'the statutory intent relating to
intelligence files and relating to investigatory files is that they are
exempt.' It is plain that 'records of intelligence information' fall within
the ambit of Exemption (f). Thus, the soundness of the action itself is drawn
into question by the binding allegations of the complaint, [FN5] as well as by
the admission of Church at the proceedings for a temporary injunction excerpted
above. We are thus presented with the question, what, if any, discovery should
take place, especially when Any proceedings under the Act is from first to last
a form of discovery, i.e., the disclosure of certain records and/or
FN5. Exemption (f) refers to 'investigatory or security files compiled by
any ( ) state or local agency for correctional, law enforcement as
licensing purposes.' The complaint alleges that defendant L.A.P.D.
'. . . received, compiled, and otherwise maintained information, documents,
reports and records pertaining to the Plaintiff herein' and, at another
point, refers to 'records of intelligence information or security
procedures of, or any such investigatory or security files compiled and/or
maintained by Defendant L.A.P.D. for correctional, law enforcement or
licensing purposes' as records which are exempt only when 'the prospect of
future enforcement proceedings is concrete.' What these allegations
demonstrate is that Church well knows that records embraced in Exemption
6254(f) exist and that, in the very terms of the allegations themselves,
they are exempt from disclosure.
In proceeding under Act, section 6255 provides the public entity which has
denied a person the right of inspection two alternative justifications,
independent of section 1040 of the Evidence Code although similar
*668 thereto, for its decision not to open its files: (1) the information
sought may be exempt under one or more of the fourteen exemptions listed in
section 6254; or (2) disclosure of the information sought, although Not
exempt, would not be in the public interest.
Church argues in support of its position that the records are inappropriately
kept and contain inaccurate information and asserts that upon disclosure the
records may be corrected. In fact, the interrogatories previously set forth,
as well as other interrogatories, posed by Church are intended to discover
whether Department has complied with internal administrative criteria on
 **579 In this connection, it should be noted that if the record is a
public record All persons have access thereto as permitted by Act and A person
who may be the subject of the particular record sought does not, because he is
personally affected, have any greater right than Any person to examine the
record. Conversely, a subject person has no right under Act to prevent
disclosure of the record to any other person. (Black Panther Party v.
Kehoe, 42 Cal.App.3d 645, 117 Cal.Rptr. 106.)
 Act was enacted with the objective of increasing freedom of
information. It is designed to give the public access to information in
possession of public agencies. Act itself does not undertake to prescribe what
type of information a public agency may gather, nor to designate the type of
records such an agency may keep, nor to provide a method of correcting such
records. Its sole function is to provide for disclosure.
 Common sense dictates that when the principal action itself seeks
records which are in all likelihood not 'discoverable' under Act because of
Exemption (f) or the public interest, interrogatories which seek information
about these records should not be permitted. To allow the ancillary discovery
process of written interrogatories to proceed would enable Church to accomplish
indirectly the objective of its discovery action without any showing that
Exemption (f) does not apply or, if it is not embraced in Exemption (f), that
public interest requires disclosure. When viewed in the context of the action
at bench, neither Shepherd v. Superior Court (1976) 17 Cal.3d 107, 130
Cal.Rptr. 257, 550 P.2d 161 nor Pitchess v. Superior Court (1974) 11 Cal.3d
531, 113 Cal.Rptr. 897, 522 P.2d 305 relied upon by Church and the trial court
are applicable. Neither Shepherd nor Pitchess were actions brought under Act
which, as *669 noted, is a special proceeding the sole object of which is
the discovery and production of records.
The exemption for the records of law enforcement agencies as contained in the
quoted language of section 6254(f) 'Records of complaints to or
investigations conducted by, or records of intelligence information * * *' is
broad and all-encompassing. It does not further describe the type of
complaints or investigations or the nature of intelligence information that is
exempt. (See Uribe v. Howie, 19 Cal.App.3d 194, 96 Cal.Rptr. 493.)
We conclude that the order of respondent court is erroneous and the court is
therefore directed to vacate its order. Accordingly, we grant the petition and
issue the peremptory writ of mandate requiring the court to vacate its order
requiring defendants to answer interrogatories 9, 10 and 11 and to enter a new
and different order sustaining defendant's objections thereto.
COMPTON and BEACH, JJ., concur.