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Name: Harrison v. Lockyer
Case #: 00-16994
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 01/21/2003
Subsequent History: Cert. den. 4/21/03

A prisoner who is limited to five years’ worth of police records in a discovery proceeding for impeachment information is not denied due process. Petitioner here sought all records of complaints against the officer. Evidence Code section 1043 and 1045 limit discovery to five years. Despite the statutory cut-off, the California Supreme Court recently ruled that citizen complaints against officers are subject to disclosure if they are “exculpatory” and that a trial court should order such disclosure after the court has reviewed the file in chambers. (City of Los Angeles v. Superior Court (Brandon) (2002) 29 Cal.4th 1.) The burden is on the defendant to make a preliminary showing that the file contains information material to his defense. (Ibid.) This procedure complies with Brady v. Maryland (1963) 373 U.S. 83, 87-88, and Pennslyvania v. Ritchie (1987) 480 U.S. 39, 53, n.15. However, the court notes: “We are not instructed on how a defendant in a criminal case will know, or be able to make, a preliminary showing that a police personnel file contains evidence material to his defense.” But the California opinion “faithfully follow[s]” the U.S. Supreme Court.