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Name: Serrano v. Superior Court (Los Angeles County)
Case #: B282975
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 10/30/2017
Summary

When a defendant uses Pitchess motion procedures to access potential Brady material known to be contained in an officer’s personnel file, he is not required to allege specific acts of officer misconduct. After Serrano was charged with various drug offenses, he filed a pretrial discovery motion requesting that the trial court conduct an in camera review of the arresting officer’s personnel records based on the prosecution’s notice that the officer’s file contained potential Brady material. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department opposed Serrano’s motion on the ground that his counsel’s declaration did not establish good cause and materiality for the production of the requested documents pursuant to Pitchess v. Superior Court (1974) 11 Cal.3d 531. The trial court denied Serrano’s motion, concluding that he failed to allege specific acts of misconduct by the arresting officer. Serrano filed a petition for writ of mandate. Held: Petition granted. In People v. Superior Court (Johnson) (2015) 61 Cal.4th 696, the California Supreme Court addressed how potential Brady material in an officer’s personnel file may be disclosed. The court distinguished the threshold showing usually required to trigger in camera review under Pitchess from the showing required when a defendant has been notified that an officer’s personnel file contains Brady material. When a defendant has been notified of the existence of Brady material in the officer’s personnel files, he may satisfy the showing necessary under Pitchess procedures by providing that information to the court and an explanation of how the officer’s credibility might be relevant to the proceeding. After analyzing the case law, the Court of Appeal concluded that a defendant in this situation is not required to also allege that the officer engaged in misconduct. Here, counsel’s declaration was sufficient under Johnson to trigger in camera review of the officer’s file.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/B282975.PDF