SN&R’s legal battle with Mayor Kevin Johnson—over whether the city should release his National Conference of Black Mayors-related emails—was supposed to be coming to an end, but earlier today a judge issued a motion to request an “in-camera” review of of the remaining contested emails and attachments.
This could be a good thing.
The hearing, which was set to take place Friday, has now been pushed back more than a month. In the meantime, the mayor’s lawyers have been ordered to produce the documents so that the judge may review them in private.
It’s just the latest chapter in a story that stretches back more than a year.
In March 2015, reporter Cosmo Garvin filed a California Public Records Act request for emails on the city server that had been sent to and from the mayor’s “Office of Mayor Kevin Johnson” Gmail account (firstname.lastname@example.org). In response, Johnson sued the paper and the city of Sacramento to block the release of those messages and their attachments, citing “client-attorney privilege”. After the lawsuit’s first hearing in July 2015, Johnson’s legal team at Ballard Spahr released more than 400 emails and records to SN&R.
The paper’s been trying to get the remaining 158 messages and attachments since.
The two sides were scheduled to meet in court on April 22 when, just one day before the scheduled hearing, a judge issued a statement that declared that Ballard Spahr had failed to prove the remaining 158 emails and attachments were privileged. Likewise, the ruling stated, SN&R had failed to prove those documents shouldn’t remain private. The judge ordered both parties to further “meet and confer” on whether certain emails are protected.
SN&R’s lawyers did so; meanwhile, Johnson’s lawyers revised the privilege log to retroactively reflect for the first time that several of the emails had been forwarded to Ballard Spahr attorneys—and were thus protected.
In the same statement, however, Johnson’s lawyers also marked 13 contested emails as exempt from client-attorney privilege.
SN&R has filed a request with the city clerk for copies of those emails.
The new court date is scheduled for July 8.