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Name: Rezek v. Superior Court (Orange County)
Case #: G044915
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 05/25/2012
Summary

Statements made by witnesses as part of an internal affairs investigation and placed in an officer’s personnel file are not immune from discovery via a Pitchess motion. Based on an encounter with a private security guard and two plain clothes police officers, defendant was charged with one misdemeanor count each of resisting arrest and vandalism. He disputed the charges, alleging police used excessive force and injured him. In a Pitchess motion, he requested the statements of witnesses to the charged event, which had been obtained by internal affairs and placed in the officers’ personnel files. (Pitchess v. Superior Court (1974) 11 Cal.3d 531.) The superior court denied the motion, finding such statements regarding the current charge were not subject to discovery under Pitchess, but must be obtained via a Penal Code section 1054.1 request. The Court of Appeal issued a writ of mandate directing the trial court to vacate its order denying the motion. The evidence was discoverable in a Pitchess motion. The process for Pitchess discovery is codified in the Evidence Code section 1043 et seq. A defendant is entitled to discover relevant information in an officer’s personnel file upon a showing of good cause — i.e., a demonstration that the data is material to pending litigation. Although Pitchess motions traditionally seek information about past third party complaints of misconduct against an officer, here, defendant sought discovery of witnesses’ statements regarding the charged offense. The trial court abused its discretion in denying the motion because section 1054.1 is not an exclusive method of discovery of such statements and the material requested was discoverable. The conditional privilege accorded police personnel files must yield to a defendant’s interests in obtaining the requested information.