Update: Pitchess Procedure Can Be Used in Administrative Officer Discipline Procedures by California Supreme Court

The “Pitchess motion procedure,” which appears in sections 1040-1047 of the Evidence Code, is a legal process that is executed in order to request the personnel records of a peace officer. Under normal circumstances, the personnel records of a peace officer are protected under the highest level of confidentiality and security. Nevertheless, there are some occasions that arise in civil and criminal court proceedings in which these records may be solicited. In addition, peace officer personnel records can also be required when certain internal disciplinary issues occur, but those types of events are considered to be of an administrative nature and do not take place in courtrooms.

Pitchess Motion Can Be Performed as Administrative Proceeding

As stated in Evidence Code section 1043, a Pitchess motion can be performed as an administrative proceeding, when enacted in the appropriate courtroom setting or administrative area. Still, in section 1045 of the Evidence Code, there are several references to the words: “the court” and its role of providing: a) a camera review of the records and, b) a determination of whether or not the records are permitted to be released. In a case tried in the California Supreme Court on December 1, 2014, (Riverside County Sheriff’s Department v. Stiglitz), it was determined that the complete Pitchess procedure can indeed be used for administrative disciplinary proceedings, even though these section 1045 references to, “the court,” are present in the document.

Sitlitz Case and Pitchess Motions

In the Stiglitz case, it was decided that in disciplinary administrative cases that are ruled by an arbitrator, Pitchess motions can be entered, and an employee’s personnel records can be reviewed via camera, exactly like judges in civil and criminal court proceedings review them.

Supreme Court Upholds Procedure

It was upheld by the Court that in cases involving administrative discipline, the Pitchess procedure improves the way officers employ the disciplinary practices that are documented in the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act (POBRA). It also reconfirmed that the personnel records of peace officers – those that are produced via a Pitchess motion – aren’t open to public disclosure and may only be revealed in that particular administrative disciplinary proceeding. The court’s decision is extremely helpful as a guidance tool for city police departments when they need to request these confidential records in cases of officer disciplinary activities or proceedings.

Contact Our Coachella Valley Public Law Attorney for a Consultation

Coachella Valley public law attorney can assist with any questions regarding the Pitchess procedure or any other public law inquiries. Contact us at 760-322-2275 to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced public law attorneys.

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