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Name: Alford v. Superior Court
Case #: S098233
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 02/27/2003
Subsequent History: Rehrg. den. 4/16/03
Summary

Petitioners, who were arrested on drug charges, sought to challenge the credibility of arresting officers. They moved in superior court for Pitchess discovery of past complaints regarding the officers. The superior court first granted the motion, but after reconsidering its ability to fashion a protective order, reversed itself and denied the motion. The Court of appeal issued a writ directing the superior court to fashion an order granting disclosure on the condition that petitioners’ attorneys not disseminate the information beyond the criminal proceeding, and permitting the prosecutor to be heard on the motion as well as receive any disclosed information. Alford sought review, arguing that the conditions were unauthorized by Evidence Code section 1045, subdivision (e). Review was granted on the issue of whether the protective order required by section 1045(e) must restrict use of Pitchess information to the proceeding in which the disclosure is sought, and whether the prosecutor has standing to be heard on the motion or to obtain information disclosed to the defense. In this opinion, the Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeal. The protective order barring the use of Pitchess information in any court proceeding besides the one in which the discovery was ordered was correctly issued. However, the prosecutor was not entitled to be heard in the proceedings and to concurrently receive material ordered disclosed. The prosecutor is entitled to notice of the hearing, but he does not have an interest in a third party discovery proceeding. J. Baxter, Chin and Brown dissented, holding that the prosecutor has a right to adversarial participation in defense Pitchess motion and access to the materials disclosed to the defendant. J. Moreno dissented, holding that the Legislature intended to permit the use of Pitchess discovery in any court proceeding.