Prompted by a judge's tentative ruling against it, the state Assembly has agreed to turn over individual lawmakers' office budgets and related records to the public and the two newspapers that sued to force disclosure: the Sacramento Bee and the Los Angeles Times. Sacramento Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley rejected the Assembly's arguments that the adopted budgetary information was exempt from disclosure as a preliminary draft, as confidential correspondence or as protected by the deliberative process privilege. He tartly answered the Assembly's argument that due to the constitutional separation of powers, no court could tell the Legislature how to manage its information: "The Legislature has no authority to interpret the laws and determine rights; that is the function of the judiciary. . . Having enacted the Open Records Act, the Legislature is bound to it, and this court can and shall interpret and enforce it."
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About the Author: Terry Francke, General Counsel
Terry Francke has a 35-year history of helping journalists, citizens and public officials understand and use their First Amendment and open government rights. With CalAware, Francke has authored comprehensive and authoritative guidebooks to California law on access to government meetings and public records and the news gathering and publication rights of journalists. Focusing on these issues in public forum law, he supervises CalAware's legislative and litigation initiatives; conducts workshops on legal compliance; helps design public records audits; supports local sunshine ordinance drafting efforts; writes CalAware Today, a blog on current developments and proposals in the law and best practices; and answers countless queries by phone and e-mail from citizens, journalists, public officials and employees, and lawyers.
Francke previously served 14 years as executive director and general counsel to the California First Amendment Coalition, after a 10-year post as legal counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association. He has served as an advisory panel member to the National Center on Courts and the Media; taught journalism law at the Department of Communication at Stanford University; and served as an expert contributor to the 1994 major revisions to the Ralph M. Brown Act and the 2004 ballot proposition making open government a basic right of citizens under the California Constitution.
Francke is a 1967 graduate of the University of Notre Dame and a 1979 graduate of McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific. Prior to his legal career, Francke worked as a weekly newspaper editor and in military and local government public affairs positions.
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