Wednesday, December 09, 2020

Alfaro v. Superior Court (Cal. Ct. App. - Dec. 9, 2020)

 Here's how this afternoon's Court of Appeal opinion begins:

"Petitioner Edenilson Misael Alfaro (Defendant), a defendant in a capital murder case filed in Marin County (the County), sought discovery in connection with his claim that juries in the County were not selected from a fair cross-section of the community. The records he sought included the County’s master list of prospective jurors. Defendant relied on Pantos v. City and County of San Francisco (1984) 151 Cal.App.3d 258 (Pantos), which held a court’s “master list of qualified jurors . . . is a judicial record subject to public inspection and copying.” (Id. at pp. 260–261.) The trial court denied the request, finding that Pantos was no longer good law in light of subsequent statutory developments, and that Defendant failed to make the showing required for discovery related to a fair cross-section challenge. 

We consider subsequent statutory developments and countervailing privacy interests, and conclude Pantos is still good law, at least as to the names and zip codes appearing on master jury lists. Accordingly, we will issue a writ directing the trial court to reverse its order denying Defendant’s request for these records."

The only thing defendant wants is names and zip codes -- things that hardly invade anyone's privacy, and that defendant thinks will show that certain racial groups are radically underrepresented on juries, perhaps due to how the county's juror selection system purges "duplicate" names from the system.

It'd be one thing if the County resisted the subpoena because it was massively expensive or revealed confidential information about particular people.  But that's totally not the case here.  You're instead left with the distinct impression that the County doesn't want the defendant to know how jurors are selected precisely because it's worried that they'll discover that the process does not, in fact, work the way it should.

The whole "sunlight is the best disinfectant" principle seems quite applicable here.

(Though perhaps, in these COVID times, it bears mention that sunlight is not, in fact, the best disinfectant for actual diseases.)