Justice Werdegar Concurs and Dissents.
The California Supreme Court held today, “that when hearing an administrative appeal from discipline imposed on a correctional officer, an arbitrator may rule upon a discovery motion for officer personnel records, commonly referred to as a Pitchess motion.” Riverside County Sheriff’s Department v. Stiglitz, S206350 (Dec. 1, 2014) (Cordigan writing for the majority).
The context in which the issue arose was a disciplinary proceeding involving a Riverside Sheriff’s Deputy Kristy Drinkwater, fired for allegedly falsifying her payroll forms. Deputy Drinkwater urged a disparate treatment defense, seeking discovery of other personnel investigations. The arbitrator denied the Pitchess motion without prejudice, but after further briefing did order production of 11 officers’ personnel records for in camera review.
The Sheriff’s Department sought a writ of administrative mandamus, successfully arguing to the superior court that only judicial officers could grant Pitchess motions. However, Drinkwater and intervener Sheriffs’ Association sought review, and the Court of Appeal reversed. The Supreme Court has now affirmed the Court of Appeal, thereby allowing the arbitrator to do an in camera review and rule on the Pitchess motion.
Justice Werdegar agreed with the majority that Pitchess discovery can be sought in administrative proceedings. She disagreed, however, that every nonjudicial presiding officer may review privileged and confidential materials in the context of a Pitchess motion, arguing only judicial officers should be permitted in camera review of such materials.