Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer has failed to publicly release any racial data on who his office prosecutes nearly two months after a superior court judge ordered him to.
At the end of August, OC Superior Court Judge Walter Schwarm ruled that while the district attorney could withhold some confidential information, he was required to disclose the race of defendants his office prosecutes.
“Petitioners are entitled to receive ‘statistical or research information’ obtained from OCDA’s records, as long as identifying information about the subjects of the records, e.g., names and birthdates, is not disclosed,” Schwarm wrote in his ruling.
While some of the information has been released to the ACLU, spokesperson Nicholas Reiner noted they were still arguing with prosecutors over what had to be released.
“We have received data,” Reiner said in an email to Voice of OC. “It’s our understanding others should be able to receive it as well.”
When asked about the data being released to the ACLU, Kimberly Edds, Spitzer’s chief spokesperson, said that didn’t mean it had to be released to the general public.
“We are providing this information to the party in the lawsuit in accordance with a court order,” Edds said.
The lawsuit came before a judge after the ACLU and Chicansx Unidx de Orange County sued for the information under the California Public Records Act.
In a report titled “IN(JUSTICE) in ORANGE COUNTY,” the ACLU said it was illegal for Spitzer to keep the information secret.
“The OCDA’s Office only agreed to turn over charging data from when Spitzer’s predecessor, Tony Rackauckas, was in office,” ACLU staff wrote in the report. “The lack of transparency with respect to charging data under the current OCDA’s tenure is particularly concerning, given that the current OCDA ran on a platform of transparency.”
In a statement following Schwarm’s announcement, the ACLU claimed that the DA’s office committed to releasing the data within a month.
But that information hasn’t made its way to the public sphere yet.
A Voice of OC request for the records was denied on October 4, citing the “ongoing litigation,” over what records would be released.
“No final determination exists regarding the prosperity for release of the entirety of records sought in that case,” wrote Wayne Phillips, the DA’s public records counsel. “Consequently, the OCDA will not produce documents in response to your request at this time, and in no event, before the above-referenced litigation is concluded.”
Edds repeated Phillips’ statement when asked about the issue.
“You received a response on Oct 4,” Edds wrote in a Tuesday text. “The issue is still the subject of litigation.”
In a previous statement, Edds said the DA’s office was only trying to stop the ACLU from obtaining the non-anonymized data, which would have included the names of people being prosecuted.
While the ACLU initially denied they were ever seeking that data in August, they clarified in an interview on Monday after being asked about the issue that while it had been included in their original request, it was immediately removed when the DA raised an objection in court.
“That justification was manufactured. It was never identified as an issue in the many pages of correspondence we had back and forth with the DA prior to filing our litigation,” said ACLU attorney Emi MacLean. “As soon as they identified that was the new issue, we said ok we’re very willing to accept anonymized data.”
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @NBiesiada.
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