By Jarrell Cook, Associate Policy Director
AB 814, by Assembly Member Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), seeks to create a new and expansive power for the City Attorneys of California’s largest cities to subpoena entities and individuals to examine their records based on simple allegations before filing any action in court is scheduled to be heard by the Assembly Judiciary Committee on the morning of March 21st.
Prefiling discovery is a power currently available only to the state Attorney General and district attorneys in their role as law enforcement officers. City attorneys are responsible for advising their respective cities on civil matters and the administrative issues associated with running a metropolitan area. In our current system, a city attorney that finds that they need this subpoena power need only to call their local district attorney, who can then make the decision to issue a subpoena. AB 814 would muddy those clearly delineated roles and empower city attorneys – who do not have the same the expertise nor the same incentives as district attorneys and the attorney general – sweeping authority to force any business to open their records on a whim.
The burden of producing a potentially limitless ream of documents at the behest of a city attorney can be an expensive and onerous burden on both small and large manufacturers. The power to subpoena before a complaint is issued that alleges specific charges of wrongdoing has the capacity to turn into a costly fishing expedition. Therefore, this power properly is limited to district attorneys and the Attorney General, whose law enforcement expertise we trust to ensure that they will not abuse their authority.
CMTA is working in a coalition of parties concerned by the unintended consequences of this seemingly unnecessary expansion of power. For more information or to discuss how this bill would affect you, please contact Jarrell Cook, Associate Policy Director for Governmental Relations, at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone 916-498-3356.
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