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Name: Goldstein v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County
Case #: B199147
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 08/23/2007

The general rule as to grand jury materials is that there is no presumptive right of public access under California law. However, when it becomes necessary in a court of justice to disclose grand jury proceedings, the absence of statutory authority to do so doesn’t prevent the superior court that supervised the grand jury from limited disclosure to prevent injustice.

The party seeking transcripts must show that the material sought is needed to avoid a possible injustice in another judicial proceeding; that the need for disclosure is greater than the need for continued secrecy; and that the request is structured to cover only material needed. (Douglas Oil Co. v. Petrol Stops Northwest (1979) 441 U.S. 211.) Testimony of a jailhouse informant helped to convict Goldstein of murder and send him to prison for 24 years. In 2002, Goldstein’s habeas petition, in part raising the inadequacy of the testimony of the jailhouse informant, was granted in federal district court and he was released from prison. The Los Angeles County Grand Jury had investigated the misuse of jailhouse informants in 1988, issuing its report in 1990, and Goldstein subsequently sought access to the material for his civil suit based on wrongful conviction and incarceration. The superior court denied access, finding no statutory authority to overcome the rule that grand jury proceedings are secret, but the appellate court ruled that the superior court had inherent authority to release the material to correct an injustice.