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SunCal Public Records Lawsuit Grinds On With Minor Victory for the City of Alameda

Late last week, Judge David Hunter of the Superior Court of California, Alameda County partially granted a motion for a protective order requested by the attorney representing the City of Alameda. The order was requested to protect against “abusive” deposition tactics by SunCal’s attorneys as part of their public records lawsuit against the City of Alameda.

In his order dated January 27th, Judge Hunter wrote, “The deposition notices for Alameda City Attorney Teresa Highsmith and Senior Assistant City Attorney Donna Mooney are QUASHED and those depositions shall not occur without further order of this Court. Plaintiff has not adequately demonstrated that Highsmith and Mooney possess nonprivileged information crucial to the preparation of this writ petition that cannot be obtained from other sources (including, e.g., the six City of Alameda employees or officials they have already deposed, and the other two witnesses whose depositions Plantiff has noticed.)”

Judge Hunter also limited any future depositions in the case to 2 hours, as requested by David Newdorf, the attorney representing the City, but he declined to enter an order “prohibiting [Plaintiff] from asking questions that are argumentative, repetitive, legal contentions, call for legal conclusions….” because he felt that any such order would only lead to attorneys for SunCal and the City to come back to court to argue over which questions fall in the prohibited categories.

The judge awarded sanctions against SunCal in the amount of $2,015 to the City of Alameda pursuant to Newdorf’s motion, but declined to award sanctions in the full amount of $15,191 as requested, calling the figure “unreasonable,” as it appeared to be “attributed largely to counsel’s combing through deposition transcripts looking for purportedly objectionable questions.)”

The case is RG10537988.

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