SN&R prevails in yearlong First Amendment battle with Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson
Judge orders K.J. to turn over remaining emails and records
Friday afternoon lumbered toward 5 o’clock as Sacramento Superior Court Judge Christopher Krueger patiently indulged Mayor Kevin Johnson’s attorney. The counsel, a dapper lawyer from Los Angeles named Scott Humphreys, wanted to retreat to the judge’s chambers, to discuss in private one final time why a few dozen mayoral emails from years ago should remain hidden from the public eye. But Krueger wasn’t having it. At one point, the judge even lifted his arms in a gesture of incredulity. And, later, flashed a smirk.
“Let me just tell you, the answer is no,” Krueger told the mayor’s counsel. “I’m not going to let this in chambers.” The judge then reminded Humphreys that SN&R and Johnson have had copious opportunity to debate the nature of the emails in question.
More than a year, in fact. But finally, this past Friday, Krueger ruled that Johnson and the city must make public 79 of the remaining 113 emails and records. Ballard Spahr, the firm that represents the mayor pro bono, needs to turn them over by July 18.
During the hearing, Humphreys was steadfast in his lobbying to keep some of the records secret. He contested that, since Ballard Spahr had reviewed firsthand many of the emails and attachments in question, they were clearly protected from disclosure because of “attorney-client privilege”—a phrase he repeated ad nauseam.
Eventually, Krueger schooled him on the law. “Every document that an attorney has seen does not fall under attorney-client privilege,” the judge explained—adding that this was legal fact no matter how many times Humphreys made a “talismanic recitation of those words.”
It was a memorable zing during a hearing that, after 16 months since the original request for emails, ended with a favorable ruling for SN&R.
This media company’s attorney called the judge’s order a big win for freedom of the press. “I was very Sacramento News & Review - SN&R prevails in yearlong First Amendment battle with Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson - News - Local Stories - July 14, 2016: