This case was last updated from Los Angeles County Superior Courts on 10/22/2020 at 02:03:07 (UTC).

LAMAAS EL VS CUSTODY ASSISTANT SOTO

Case Summary

On 09/28/2018 LAMAAS EL filed a Personal Injury - Other Personal Injury lawsuit against CUSTODY ASSISTANT SOTO. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Spring Street Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The Judge overseeing this case is JON R. TAKASUGI. The case status is Pending - Other Pending.

Case Details Parties Documents Dockets

 

Case Details

  • Case Number:

    *******2326

  • Filing Date:

    09/28/2018

  • Case Status:

    Pending - Other Pending

  • Case Type:

    Personal Injury - Other Personal Injury

  • Court:

    Los Angeles County Superior Courts

  • Courthouse:

    Spring Street Courthouse

  • County, State:

    Los Angeles, California

Judge Details

Judge

JON R. TAKASUGI

 

Party Details

Plaintiff

EL LAMAAS

Defendant

CUSTODY ASSISTANT SOTO

 

Court Documents

Certificate of Mailing for - Certificate of Mailing for (Court Order) of 10/19/2020

10/19/2020: Certificate of Mailing for - Certificate of Mailing for (Court Order) of 10/19/2020

Certificate of Mailing for - Certificate of Mailing for (Hearing on Motion - Other for Appointment of Counsel; Hearing...) of 10/20/2020

10/20/2020: Certificate of Mailing for - Certificate of Mailing for (Hearing on Motion - Other for Appointment of Counsel; Hearing...) of 10/20/2020

Minute Order - Minute Order (Hearing on Motion - Other for Appointment of Counsel; Hearing...)

10/20/2020: Minute Order - Minute Order (Hearing on Motion - Other for Appointment of Counsel; Hearing...)

Other - (name extension) - Supplemental to Motion for Discovery for Sheriffs Department to Reveal the First Name of Custody Assistant Soto, or Serve the Defendant the Summons

6/22/2020: Other - (name extension) - Supplemental to Motion for Discovery for Sheriffs Department to Reveal the First Name of Custody Assistant Soto, or Serve the Defendant the Summons

Certificate of Mailing for - Certificate of Mailing for (Hearing on Motion - Other for Appointment of Counsel; Hearing...) of 08/06/2020

8/6/2020: Certificate of Mailing for - Certificate of Mailing for (Hearing on Motion - Other for Appointment of Counsel; Hearing...) of 08/06/2020

Minute Order - Minute Order (Hearing on Motion - Other for Appointment of Counsel; Hearing...)

8/6/2020: Minute Order - Minute Order (Hearing on Motion - Other for Appointment of Counsel; Hearing...)

Minute Order - Minute Order (Court Order Re: Continuance of Hearings)

4/24/2020: Minute Order - Minute Order (Court Order Re: Continuance of Hearings)

Minute Order - Minute Order (Non-Appearance Case Review)

12/26/2019: Minute Order - Minute Order (Non-Appearance Case Review)

Motion re: (name extension) - Motion re: For Appointment of Counsel

12/26/2019: Motion re: (name extension) - Motion re: For Appointment of Counsel

Request (name extension) - Request for Discovery Sheriffs Department to Reveal the First Name of Custody Assistant Soto, Or Serve the Defendant Summons

12/26/2019: Request (name extension) - Request for Discovery Sheriffs Department to Reveal the First Name of Custody Assistant Soto, Or Serve the Defendant Summons

Certificate of Mailing for - Certificate of Mailing for (Non-Appearance Case Review) of 12/26/2019

12/26/2019: Certificate of Mailing for - Certificate of Mailing for (Non-Appearance Case Review) of 12/26/2019

Correspondence - Correspondence

1/3/2020: Correspondence - Correspondence

Certificate of Mailing for - Certificate of Mailing for (Hearing on Request for Court Order for Discovery Sheriffs Dep...) of 03/11/2020

3/11/2020: Certificate of Mailing for - Certificate of Mailing for (Hearing on Request for Court Order for Discovery Sheriffs Dep...) of 03/11/2020

Minute Order - Minute Order (Hearing on Request for Court Order for Discovery Sheriffs Dep...)

3/11/2020: Minute Order - Minute Order (Hearing on Request for Court Order for Discovery Sheriffs Dep...)

Notice Re: Continuance of Hearing and Order - Notice Re: Continuance of Hearing and Order

3/17/2020: Notice Re: Continuance of Hearing and Order - Notice Re: Continuance of Hearing and Order

Notice: Waiver of Court Fees (Superior Court) - Notice: Waiver of Court Fees (Superior Court)

10/23/2018: Notice: Waiver of Court Fees (Superior Court) - Notice: Waiver of Court Fees (Superior Court)

Complaint

9/28/2018: Complaint

Notice of Case Assignment - Limited Civil Case

9/28/2018: Notice of Case Assignment - Limited Civil Case

12 More Documents Available

 

Docket Entries

  • 10/01/2021
  • Hearing10/01/2021 at 10:30 AM in Department 25 at 312 North Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012; Order to Show Cause Re: Failure to File Proof of Service

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  • 02/09/2021
  • Hearing02/09/2021 at 09:30 AM in Department 25 at 312 North Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012; Order to Show Cause Re: Failure to File Proof of Service

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  • 11/16/2020
  • Hearing11/16/2020 at 10:00 AM in Department 25 at 312 North Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012; Hearing on Motion - Other (name extension)

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  • 10/20/2020
  • DocketHearing on Motion - Other for Appointment of Counsel scheduled for 11/16/2020 at 10:00 AM in Spring Street Courthouse at Department 25

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  • 10/20/2020
  • DocketMinute Order (Hearing on Motion - Other for Appointment of Counsel; Hearing...)

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  • 10/20/2020
  • DocketCertificate of Mailing for (Hearing on Motion - Other for Appointment of Counsel; Hearing...) of 10/20/2020; Filed by: Clerk

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  • 10/20/2020
  • DocketOn the Court's own motion, Hearing on Motion - Other for Appointment of Counsel scheduled for 10/20/2020 at 10:30 AM in Spring Street Courthouse at Department 25 Held - Continued was rescheduled to 11/16/2020 10:00 AM

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  • 10/20/2020
  • DocketHearing on Request for Court Order for Discovery Sheriffs Department to Reveal the First Name of Custody Assistant Soto, or Serve the Defendant Summons scheduled for 10/20/2020 at 10:30 AM in Spring Street Courthouse at Department 25 updated: Result Date to 10/20/2020; Result Type to Held - Motion Denied

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  • 10/19/2020
  • DocketMinute Order (Court Order)

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  • 10/19/2020
  • DocketCertificate of Mailing for (Court Order) of 10/19/2020; Filed by: Clerk

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37 More Docket Entries
  • 12/13/2018
  • DocketUpdated -- Request to Waive Court Fees: As To Parties: Lamaas El (Plaintiff)

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  • 10/23/2018
  • DocketUpdated -- Request to Waive Court Fees: Filed By: Lamaas El (Plaintiff); Result: Granted by Operation of Law; Result Date: 10/23/2018

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  • 10/23/2018
  • DocketNotice: Waiver of Court Fees (Superior Court); Filed by: Clerk

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  • 10/23/2018
  • DocketUpdated -- Request to Waive Court Fees: Result Date changed from 10/23/2018 to 10/23/2018; As To Parties: removed

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  • 10/01/2018
  • DocketOrder to Show Cause Re: Failure to File Proof of Service scheduled for 10/01/2021 at 08:30 AM in Stanley Mosk Courthouse at Department 94

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  • 10/01/2018
  • DocketNon-Jury Trial scheduled for 03/27/2020 at 08:30 AM in Stanley Mosk Courthouse at Department 94

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  • 09/28/2018
  • DocketCase assigned to Hon. Jon R. Takasugi in Department 94 Stanley Mosk Courthouse

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  • 09/28/2018
  • DocketNotice of Case Assignment - Limited Civil Case; Filed by: Clerk

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  • 09/28/2018
  • DocketRequest to Waive Court Fees; Filed by: Lamaas El (Plaintiff)

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  • 09/28/2018
  • DocketComplaint; Filed by: Lamaas El (Plaintiff); As to: Custody Assistant Soto (Defendant)

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Tentative Rulings

Case Number: 18STLC12326    Hearing Date: October 20, 2020    Dept: 25

HEARING DATE: Tue., October 20, 2020 JUDGE/DEPT: Blancarte/25

CASE NAME: El v. Custody Assistant Soto COMP. FILED: 09-28-18

CASE # 18STLC12326 DISC C/O: NONE

NOTICE: N/A MOT. C/O: NONE

TRIAL DATE: NONE

PROCEEDINGS: (1) REQUEST FOR DISCOVERY – SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT TO REVEAL THE FIRST NAME OF CUSTODY ASSISTANT SOTO OR SERVE THE DEFENDANT SUMMONS

(2) MOTION FOR APPOINTMENT OF COUNSEL

MOVING PARTY: Plaintiff Lamaas El

RESP. PARTY: None

MOTION FOR ORDER TO RELEASE PUBLIC RECORDS

(Gov’t Code § 6259)

MOTION FOR APPOINTMENT OF COUNSEL

(Penal Code § 2601)

TENTATIVE RULING:

Plaintiff Lamaas El’s Request for Discovery – Sheriff’s Department to Reveal the First Name of Custody Assistant Soto or Serve the Defendant Summons is DENIED. However, Plaintiff’s Motion for Appointment of Counsel is CONTINUED TO NOV 16, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. in Department 25 at the SPRING STREET COURTHOUSE. At least 16 court days before the next scheduled hearing, Plaintiff must file supplemental papers addressing the deficiencies identified herein. Failure to do so may result in the motion being placed off calendar or denied.

SERVICE:

[ ] Proof of Service Timely Filed (CRC, rule 3.1300) N/A

[ ] Correct Address (CCP §§ 1013, 1013a) N/A

[ ] 16/21 Court Days Lapsed (CCP §§ 12c, 1005(b)) N/A

OPPOSITION: None filed as of October 16, 2020 [ ] Late [X] None

REPLY: None filed as of October 16, 2020 [ ] Late [X] None

ANALYSIS:

  1. Background

On September 28, 2018, Plaintiff Lamaas El (“Plaintiff”) filed an action for general negligence, in pro per, against Custody Assistant Soto (“Defendant”). Plaintiff alleges that on April 16, 2017, Defendant was a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department employee working at the Men’s Central Jail in Los Angeles County and that Defendant’s negligent operation of cell doors caused Plaintiff personal injury. (Comp., p. 4.) To date, Plaintiff has not served the Summons and Complaint on Defendant because he does not know Defendant’s full name. (See Discovery Mot., Exh. A.)

On December 26, 2019, Plaintiff filed the instant (1) Request for Discovery – Sheriff’s Department to Reveal the First Name of Custody Assistant Soto or Serve the Defendant Summons (the “Discovery Motion”) and (2) Motion for Appointment of Counsel (the “Motion for Counsel”).

The Court continued the initial hearing on March 11, 2020 to allow Plaintiff to submit supplemental papers in support of his motions. (3/11/20 Minute Order.) On June 22, 2020, Plaintiff filed three supplemental declarations.

At the continued hearing on August 6, 2020, the Court conferred with Plaintiff and Correctional Counselor David Bureau regarding the accommodations available to Plaintiff to protect his due process rights. (8/6/20 Minute Order.) The Court requested that Mr. Bureau inquire about Plaintiff’s ability to register and obtain an email address while housed at the correctional facility. (Id.) The Court also noted that an inquiry would be made with the administration regarding Plaintiff’s fee waiver and his ability to register to use LACourtConnect. (Id.)

  1. Request for Discovery

A. Legal Standard

The California Public Records Act (“CPRA”) provides for the inspection of public records maintained by state and local agencies. (Gov’t Code § 6250.) “The CPRA embodies a strong policy in favor of disclosure of public records, and any refusal to disclose public information must be based on a specific exception to that policy.” (California State University v. Superior Court (2001) 90 Cal.App.4th 810, 831.)

Government Code section 6254, subdivision (f) provides that state and local law enforcement agencies must disclose the names and addresses of persons involved in an incident “unless the disclosure would endanger the safety of a witness or other person involved in the investigation, or unless disclosure would endanger the successful completion of the investigation.” “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 disclosing the record clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure of the record.” (Gov’t Code, § 6255, subd. (a).)

In addition, Government Code section 6259 provides:

“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 the officer or person 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 any oral argument and additional evidence as the court may allow.”

(Gov’t Code § 6259, subd. (a).) If, after review, the court finds that the decision to refuse to make the record public is not justified under Government Code section 6254 or section 6255, then the court shall order that record to be public. (Gov’t Code § 6259, subd. (b).)

B. Discussion

Plaintiff seeks an order requiring the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (the “Sheriff’s Department”) to reveal the full name of Defendant Custody Assistant Soto or have the Sheriff’s Department serve the Summons and Complaint on him under the CPRA. (Discovery Mot., p. 1.) As previously by the Court on March 11, 2020, Plaintiff sent a request to the Sheriff’s Office “seeking the full name of Custody Assistant Soto, who worked Module 2500 on April 16, 2017. (3/11/20 Minute Order; Request for Discovery Mot., Exhs. B, C.) The Sheriff’s Department rejected the request, stating that the Custody Support Services Bureau identified the “‘AM Shift-In Service, Men’s Central Jail’ for Saturday, April 16, 2017” but that “shift-in services [were] exempt from disclosure for safety and security purposes pursuant to Government Code § 6254(f) and § 6255(a).” (Id.)

At the initial hearing, the Court noted that Plaintiff’s Discovery Motion was not verified, and that Plaintiff had not demonstrated that the Sheriff’s department improperly withheld public records from public view. (3/11/20 Minute Order.)

In his June 22, 2020 supplemental papers, Plaintiff included a verification for his request. (6/22/19 Supp. to Mtn. for Discovery.) However, Plaintiff’s supplemental papers fail to demonstrate that Defendant’s full name is a public record being improperly withheld from the public or discuss the reasons why revealing Defendant’s name is not a threat to Defendant’s safety and security as determined by the Sheriff’s Department. (See Id.) In addition, Plaintiff has not provided any authority that permits this Court to require the Sheriff’s Department to serve Defendant with the Summons and Complaint.

Further still, although Plaintiff’s supplemental papers include a proof of service, it does not state that this Motion and supplemental papers were served on the Sheriff’s Department.

Thus, Plaintiff’s request for an order requiring the Sheriff’s Department to reveal Defendant’s full name or, in the alternative, requiring it to serve Defendant with the Summons and Complaint is DENIED.

  1. Motion for Appointment of Counsel

A. Legal Standard

Penal Code section 2601, subdivision (d), provides indigent prisoners with a right of meaningful access to courts to prosecute civil actions. In addition, California law provides that the appointment of counsel for an indigent prisoner pursuing a civil action is a part of the right of access to the courts. (Apollo v. Gyaami (2008) 167 Cal.App.4th 1468, 1484.)

The trial court has the discretion to appoint counsel to protect the right of access to the courts. (Smith v. Ogbuehi (2019) 38 Cal.App.5th 453, 458; ) The trial court’s discretion is guided by a three-step analysis: “[f]irst, the trial court determines whether the prisoner is indigent. Second, the court determines whether the lawsuit involves a bona fide threat to the inmate’s personal or property interests. If both conditions are satisfied, the trial court must consider the measures available to protect appellant’s right of meaningful access to the courts, including the appointment of counsel.” (Id.) Measures that the court may take to protect the right of access include, but are not limited to, (1) deferral of the action until the prisoner is released, (2) transfer of the prisoner to the court, (3) using depositions in lieu of personal court appearances, (4) holding trial in prison, (5) conducting court proceedings over telephone, (6) using closed-circuit television or other modern media, (7) “implementation of other innovative, imaginative procedures” and (8) propounding of written discovery. (Apollo v. Gyaami, supra, 167 Cal.App.4th at 1483; Smith v. Ogbuehi (2019) 38 Cal.App.5th 453, 467.) In appropriate circumstances, and as a last alternative, the appointment of counsel may be the only way to provide an incarcerated and indigent civil litigant with access to the courts to protect his or her personal and property rights. (Yarbough v. Superior Court (1985) 39 Cal.3d 197, 200-01.) (Italics added.)

B. Discussion

In his moving papers, Plaintiff argued that he is unable to afford counsel, that his imprisonment will limit his ability to litigate the action, and that he has limited access to the law library and limited knowledge of the law. (Mot. for Counsel, p. 1.) At the initial hearing, the Court noted that Plaintiff did not demonstrate he was indigent or why lesser measures would not be appropriate and ordered him to file supplemental papers addressing these points. (3/11/20 Minute Order.)

The determination of whether a litigant is indigent is left to the trial court’s sound discretion. (Apollo v. Gyaami (2008) 167 Cal.App.4th 1468, 1485.) In making this determination, the court may consider whether fee waivers for the litigant have been granted. (See id.) Here, Plaintiff filed a Request to Waive Court Fees, which was approved by the Court on October 23, 2018 by Judge Jon R. Takasugi. (10/23/18 Notice: Waiver of Court Fees.) However, the request was granted by operation of law as no action was taken by the court within five days after the request was filed, not because the court expressly determined that Plaintiff was indigent. (Id.) In his supplemental papers, Plaintiff submits a copy of his Inmate Statement Report to demonstrate he is indigent. (6/22/20 Supp. to Mtn. for Appointment of Counsel.) Plaintiff’s inmate report demonstrates that between October 1, 2019 through April 7, 2020, his inmate account, at all times, had a balance of less than $50.00. (Id.) Although Plaintiff’s inmate report demonstrates a low balance, Plaintiff has not expressly stated he does not have any other source of income that is not reflected in his inmate account or have any other assets. Although this may seem like a minor point, the determination of whether a litigant is indigent is an important threshold issue that cannot be made on speculation.

Plaintiff also argues conducting court proceedings over the phone is only one component of his ability to prosecute his lawsuit. (6/22/20 Supp. to Mtn. for Appointment of Counsel.) However, he has not demonstrated why this is insufficient. Importantly, the Court now heavily encourages remote court appearances in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, Plaintiff has not discussed or demonstrated why other measures such as (1) deferral of the action until the prisoner is released, (2) transfer of the prisoner to the court, (3) using depositions in lieu of personal court appearances, (4) holding trial in prison, (5) using closed-circuit television or other modern media, (6) “implementation of other innovative, imaginative procedures” or (7) propounding of written discovery would not afford him meaningful access to the Courts. In determining what the appropriate remedy is to afford an indigent litigant meaningful access to the courts, the trial court considers the “nature of the action, the potential effect on the prisoner's property, the necessity for the prisoner's presence, the prisoner's role in the action, the prisoner's literacy, intelligence and competence to represent himself or herself, the stage of the proceedings, the access of the prisoner to a law library and legal materials, the length of the sentence, the feasibility of transferring the prisoner to court and the cost and inconvenience to the prison and judicial systems.” (Wantuch v. Davis (1995) 32 Cal.App.4th 786, 793.)

It is important that Plaintiff demonstrate alternatives are not viable as the appointment of counsel in a civil action is only done as a last alternative. (Yarbough v. Superior Court, supra, 39 Cal.3d at p. 200-01.) Thus, Plaintiff is ordered to file supplemental papers addressing all the points noted above.

  1. Conclusion & Order

For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff Lamaas El’s Request for Discovery – Sheriff’s Department to Reveal the First Name of Custody Assistant Soto or Serve the Defendant Summons is DENIED. However, Plaintiff’s Motion for Appointment of Counsel is CONTINUED TO NOV 16, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. in Department 25 at the SPRING STREET COURTHOUSE. At least 16 18stlc1232618stlc12326deficiencies identified herein. Failure to do so may result in the motion being placed off calendar or denied.

Moving party is ordered to give notice.

Case Number: 18STLC12326    Hearing Date: August 06, 2020    Dept: 25

MOTION FOR ORDER TO RELEASE PUBLIC RECORDS

MOTION FOR APPOINTMENT OF COUNSEL

(Penal Code § 2601)

TENTATIVE RULING

Plaintiff Lamaas El’s Request for Discovery – Sheriff’s Department to Reveal the First Name of Custody Assistant Soto or Serve the Defendant Summons is DENIED. However, Plaintiff’s Motion for Appointment of Counsel is CONTINUED TO OCTOBER 20, 2020 at 10:30 a.m. in Department 25 at the SPRING STREET COURTHOUSE. At least 16 court days before the next scheduled hearing, Plaintiff must file supplemental papers addressing the deficiencies identified herein. Failure to do so may result in the motion being placed off calendar or denied.

SERVICE:

[   ] Proof of Service Timely Filed (CRC, rule 3.1300) N/A

[   ] Correct Address (CCP §§ 1013, 1013a) N/A

[   ] 16/21 Court Days Lapsed (CCP §§ 12c, 1005(b)) N/A

OPPOSITION: None filed as of August 4, 2020 [   ] Late [X] None

REPLY: None filed as of August 4, 2020 [   ] Late [X] None

ANALYSIS:

  1. Background

On September 28, 2018, Plaintiff Lamaas El (“Plaintiff”) filed an action for general negligence, in pro per, against Custody Assistant Soto (“Defendant”). Plaintiff alleges that on April 16, 2017, Defendant was a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department employee working at the Men’s Central Jail in Los Angeles County and that Defendant’s negligent operation of cell doors caused Plaintiff personal injury. (Comp., p. 4.) To date, Plaintiff has not served the Summons and Complaint on Defendant because he does not know Defendant’s full name. (See Discovery Mot., Exh. A.)

On December 26, 2019, Plaintiff filed the instant (1) Request for Discovery – Sheriff’s Department to Reveal the First Name of Custody Assistant Soto or Serve the Defendant Summons (the “Discovery Motion”) and (2) Motion for Appointment of Counsel (the “Motion for Counsel”).

The Court continued the initial hearing on March 11, 2020 to allow Plaintiff to submit supplemental papers in support of his motions. (3/11/20 Minute Order.) The Court also warned that failure to file the requested supplemental papers addressing the deficiencies noted could result in the motions being placed off calendar. (Id.)

On June 22, 2020, Plaintiff filed three supplemental declarations.

  1. Request for Discovery  

A. Legal Standard

Government Code section 6254, subdivision (f) provides that state and local law enforcement agencies must disclose the names and addresses of persons involved in an incident “unless the disclosure would endanger the safety of a witness or other person involved in the investigation, or unless disclosure would endanger the successful completion of the investigation.”

The California Public Records Act (“CPRA”) provides for the inspection of public records maintained by state and local agencies. (Gov’t Code § 6250.) “The CPRA embodies a strong policy in favor of disclosure of public records, and any refusal to disclose public information must be based on a specific exception to that policy.” (California State University v. Superior Court (2001) 90 Cal.App.4th 810, 831.)

Government Code section 6259 provides:    

“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 the officer or person 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 any oral argument and additional evidence as the court may allow.”

(Gov’t Code § 6259, subd. (a).) If, after review, the court finds that the decision to refuse to make the record public is not justified under Government Code section 6254 or section 6255, then the court shall order that record to be public. (Gov’t Code section 6259, subd. (b).)

B. Discussion

 

Plaintiff seeks an order requiring the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (the “Sheriff’s Department”) to reveal the full name of Defendant Custody Assistant Soto or have the Sheriff’s Department serve the Summons and Complaint on him pursuant to the CPRA. (Discovery Mot., p. 1.) At the initial hearing, the Court noted that Plaintiff’s Discovery Motion was not verified, and that Plaintiff had not demonstrated that the Sheriff’s department improperly withheld public records from public view. (3/11/20 Minute Order.)

In his June 22, 2020 supplemental papers, Plaintiff included a verification for his request. (6/22/19 Supp. to Mtn. for Discovery.) However, Plaintiff’s supplemental papers fail to demonstrate that Defendant’s full name is a public record being improperly withheld from the public. (See Id.) Indeed, Plaintiff entirely fails to address this issue. (Id.) In addition, Plaintiff has not provided any authority that authorizes this Court to require the Sheriff’s Department to serve Defendant with the Summons and Complaint.

Thus, Plaintiff’s request for an order requiring the Sheriff’s Department to reveal Defendant’s full name or, in the alternative, requiring it to serve Defendant with the Summons and Complaint is DENIED.

  1. Motion for Appointment of Counsel

A. Legal Standard

 

Penal Code section 2601, subdivision (d), provides indigent prisoners with a right of meaningful access to courts to prosecute civil actions. In addition, California law provides that the appointment of counsel for an indigent prisoner pursuing a civil action is a part of the right of access to the courts. (Apollo v. Gyaami (2008) 167 Cal.App.4th 1468, 1484.)

The trial court has the discretion to appoint counsel to protect the right of access to the courts. (Smith v. Ogbuehi(2019) 38 Cal.App.5th 453, 458; ) The trial court’s discretion is guided by a three-step analysis: “[f]irst, the trial court determines whether the prisoner is indigent. Second, the court determines whether the lawsuit involves a bona fide threat to the inmate’s personal or property interests. If both conditions are satisfied, the trial court must consider the measures available to protect appellant’s right of meaningful access to the courts, including the appointment of counsel.” (Id.) Measures that the court may take to protect the right of access include, but are not limited to, (1) deferral of the action until the prisoner is released, (2) transfer of the prisoner to the court, (3) using depositions in lieu of personal court appearances, (4) holding trial in prison, (5) conducting court proceedings over telephone, (6) using closed-circuit television or other modern media, (7) “implementation of other innovative, imaginative procedures” and (8) propounding of written discovery. (Apollo v. Gyaamisupra, 167 Cal.App.4th at 1483; Smith v. Ogbuehi (2019) 38 Cal.App.5th 453, 467.)  In appropriate circumstances, and as a last alternative, the appointment of counsel may be the only way to provide an incarcerated and indigent civil litigant with access to the courts to protect his or her personal and property rights. (Yarbough v. Superior Court (1985) 39 Cal.3d 197, 200-01.) (Emphasis added.)

B. Discussion

In his moving papers, Plaintiff argued that he is unable to afford counsel, that his imprisonment will limit his ability to litigate the action, and that he has limited access to the law library and limited knowledge of the law. (Mot. for Counsel, p. 1.) At the initial hearing, the Court noted that Plaintiff did not demonstrate he was indigent or why lesser measures would not be appropriate and ordered him to file supplemental papers addressing these points. (3/11/20 Minute Order.)

The determination of whether a litigant is indigent is left to the trial court’s sound discretion. (Apollo v. Gyaami (2008) 167 Cal.App.4th 1468, 1485.) In making this determination, the court may consider whether fee waivers for the litigant have been granted. (See id.) Here, Plaintiff filed a Request to Waive Court Fees, which was approved by the Court on October 23, 2018 by Judge Jon R. Takasugi. (10/23/18 Notice: Waiver of Court Fees.) However, the request was granted by operation of law as no action was taken by the court within five days after the request was filed, not because the court expressly determined that Plaintiff was indigent. (Id.) In his supplemental papers, Plaintiff submits a copy of his Inmate Statement Report to demonstrate he is indigent. (6/22/20 Supp. to Mtn. for Appointment of Counsel.) Plaintiff’s inmate report demonstrates that between October 1, 2019 through April 7, 2020, his inmate account, at all times, had a balance of less than $50.00. (Id.) Although Plaintiff’s inmate report demonstrates a low balance, Plaintiff has not expressly stated he does not have any other source of income that is not reflected in his inmate account or any other assets. Although this may seem like a minor point, the determination of whether a litigant is indigent is an important threshold issue that cannot be made on speculation.

Plaintiff also argues that lesser measures such as conducting court proceedings over the phone is only one component to being able to prosecute his lawsuit. (6/22/20 Supp. to Mtn. for Appointment of Counsel.) However, he has not discussed or demonstrated why other measures such as (1) deferral of the action until the prisoner is released, (2) transfer of the prisoner to the court, (3) using depositions in lieu of personal court appearances, (4) holding trial in prison, (5) using closed-circuit television or other modern media, (6) “implementation of other innovative, imaginative procedures” or (7) propounding of written discovery would not afford him meaningful access to the Courts. Indeed, in determining what the appropriate remedy is to afford an indigent litigant meaningful access to the courts, the trial court considers the “nature of the action, the potential effect on the prisoner's property, the necessity for the prisoner's presence, the prisoner's role in the action, the prisoner's literacy, intelligence and competence to represent himself or herself, the stage of the proceedings, the access of the prisoner to a law library and legal materials, the length of the sentence, the feasibility of transferring the prisoner to court and the cost and inconvenience to the prison and judicial systems.” (Wantuch v. Davis (1995) 32 Cal.App.4th 786, 793.)  

It is important that Plaintiff demonstrate alternatives are not viable as the appointment of counsel in a civil action is only done as a last alternative. (Yarbough v. Superior Court, supra, 39 Cal.3d at p. 200-01.) Thus, Plaintiff is ordered to file supplemental papers addressing these points.

  1. Conclusion & Order

For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff Lamaas El’s Request for Discovery – Sheriff’s Department to Reveal the First Name of Custody Assistant Soto or Serve the Defendant Summons is DENIED. However, Plaintiff’s Motion for Appointment of Counsel is CONTINUED TO OCTOBER 20, 2020 at 10:30 a.m. in Department 25 at the SPRING STREET COURTHOUSE. At least 16 court days before the next scheduled hearing, Plaintiff must file supplemental papers addressing the deficiencies identified herein. Failure to do so may result in the motion being placed off calendar or denied.

Moving party is ordered to give notice.

Case Number: 18STLC12326    Hearing Date: March 11, 2020    Dept: 25

MOTION FOR ORDER TO RELEASE PUBLIC RECORDS

(Gov’t Code § 6259)

MOTION FOR APPOINTMENT OF COUNSEL

(Penal Code § 2601)

TENTATIVE RULING:

Plaintiff Lamaas El’s (1) Request for Discovery – Sheriff’s Department to Reveal the First Name of Custody Assistant Soto or Serve the Defendant Summons and (2) Motion for Appointment of Counsel are CONTINUED TO MAY 28, 2020 at 10:30 a.m. in Department 25 at the SPRING STREET COURTHOUSE.

At least 16 court days before the next scheduled hearing, Plaintiff must file and serve supplemental papers addressing the deficiencies identified herein. Failure to do so may result in the motions being placed off calendar or denied.

ANALYSIS:

  1. Background

On September 28, 2018, Plaintiff Lamaas El (“Plaintiff”) filed an action for general negligence, in pro per, against Custody Assistant Soto (“Defendant”). Plaintiff alleges that on April 16, 2017, Defendant was a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department employee working at the Men’s Central Jail in Los Angeles County and that Defendant’s negligent operation of cell doors caused Plaintiff personal injury. (Comp., p. 4.) To date, Plaintiff has not served the Summons and Complaint on Defendant because he does not know Defendant’s full name. (See Discovery Mot., Exh. A.)

On December 26, 2019, Plaintiff filed the instant (1) Request for Discovery – Sheriff’s Department to Reveal the First Name of Custody Assistant Soto or Serve the Defendant Summons (the “Discovery Motion”) and (2) Motion for Appointment of Counsel (the “Motion for Counsel”).

  1. Request for Discovery

A. Legal Standard

Government Code section 6254, subdivision (f) provides that state and local law enforcement agencies must disclose the names and addresses of persons involved in an incident “unless the disclosure would endanger the safety of a witness or other person involved in the investigation, or unless disclosure would endanger the successful completion of the investigation.”

The CPRA provides for the inspection of public records maintained by state and local agencies. (Gov’t Code § 6250.) “The CPRA embodies a strong policy in favor of disclosure of public records, and any refusal to disclose public information must be based on a specific exception to that policy.” (California State University v. Superior Court (2001) 90 Cal.App.4th 810, 831.)

Government Code section 6259 provides:

“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 the officer or person 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 any oral argument and additional evidence as the court may allow.”

(Gov’t Code § 6259, subd. (a).) If, after review, the court finds that the decision to refuse to make the record public is not justified under Government Code section 6254 or section 6255, then the court shall order that record to be public. (Gov’t Code section 6259, subd. (b).)

B. Discussion

 

Plaintiff’s Request for Discovery Motion asks that the Court order the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department to reveal the full name of Custody Assistant Soto or have the Sheriff’s Department serve the Summons and Complaint Custody Assistant Soto. (Request for Discovery Mot., p. 1.) He makes this request pursuant to the California Public Records Act (“CPRA”). (Id.)

Plaintiff appears to have made a request to the Sheriff’s Office to provide the full name of Defendant. (Request for Discovery Mot., Exh. B.) The Sheriff’s Department rejected the request, stating that the Defendant’s full name was “exempt from disclosure for safety and security purposes” pursuant to Government Code section 6254, subdivision (f) and section 6255, subdivision (a). (Id., Exh. C.)

However, Plaintiff has not demonstrated that the Sheriff’s Department has improperly withheld public records from public view. Indeed, Plaintiff simply states that he seeks relief “pursuant to the California Public Records Act” without providing any further explanation. (Request for Discovery Mot., p. 1.) In addition, the relief Plaintiff seeks here must be made by verified petition, which has not been done here. (Gov’t Code § 6259, subd. (a).)

  1. Motion for Appointment of Counsel

A. Legal Standard

 

Penal Code section 2601, subdivision (d), provides indigent prisoners with a right of meaningful access to courts to prosecute civil actions. In addition, California law provides that the appointment of counsel for an indigent prisoner pursing a civil action is a part of the right of access to the courts. (Apollo v. Gyaami (2008) 167 Cal.App.4th 1468, 1484.)

The trial court has the discretion to appoint counsel to protect the right of access to the courts. (Smith v. Ogbuehi (2019) 38 Cal.App.5th 453, 458; ) The trial court’s discretion is guided by a three-step analysis: “[f]irst, the trial court determines whether the prisoner is indigent. Second, the court determines whether the lawsuit involves a bona fide threat to the inmate’s personal or property interests. If both conditions are satisfied, the trial court must consider the measures available to protect appellant’s right of meaningful access to the courts, including the appointment of counsel.” (Id.) Measures that the court may take to protect the right of access include, but are not limited to, (1) deferral of the action until the prisoner is released, (2) transfer of the prisoner to the court, (3) using depositions in lieu of personal court appearances, (4) holding trial in prison, (5) conducting court proceedings over telephone, (6) using closed-circuit television or other modern media, and (7) “implementation of other innovative, imaginative procedures.” (Apollo v. Gyaami, supra, 167 Cal.App.4th at 1483.) In appropriate circumstances, and as a last alternative, the appointment of counsel may be the only way to provide an incarcerated and indigent civil litigant with access to the courts to protect his or her personal and property rights. (Yarbough v. Superior Court (1985) 39 Cal.3d 197, 200-01.)

B. Discussion

Here, Plaintiff cites and relies on 28 U.S.C. § 1915, subdivision (e)(1), which is the federal statute authorizing prisoners to bring civil actions, in pro per, and grants federal district courts the discretionary authority to appoint counsel for civil indigent litigants. Although his reliance on federal law is misplaced, the Court deems this to be a Motion for the Appointment of Counsel under California state law.

Plaintiff states in his Motion that he is unable to afford counsel, that his imprisonment will limit his ability to litigate the issues involved, and that he has limited access to the law library and limited knowledge of the law. (Mot., p. 1.) However, Plaintiff has not demonstrated that he is indigent or that his law suit involves a “bona fide threat to [his] personal or property interests.” In addition, Plaintiff has not demonstrated why a lesser measure, such as conducting court proceedings over the phone, would not be appropriate. Thus, Plaintiff is ordered to file supplemental papers addressing these deficiencies.

  1. Conclusion & Order

For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff Lamaas El’s (1) Request for Discovery – Sheriff’s Department to Reveal the First Name of Custody Assistant Soto or Serve the Defendant Summons and (2) Motion for Appointment of Counsel are CONTINUED TO MAY 28, 2020 at 10:30 a.m. in Department 25 at the SPRING STREET COURTHOUSE.

At least 16 court days before the next scheduled hearing, Plaintiff must file and serve supplemental papers addressing the deficiencies identified herein. Failure to do so may result in the motions being placed off calendar or denied.

Moving party is ordered to give notice.