A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge is poised to strike down challenges to a new state transparency law that requires police agencies to disclose misconduct records.

Judge Mitchell Beckloff on Friday tentatively rejected separate requests by two police unions to extend temporary court orders now preventing two agencies from complying with the new law. The ruling — expected to be finalized by Tuesday — applies only to the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, but could influence other agencies that are watching closely such legal challenges.

It would be the second time in recent days that a California judge has ruled against police unions fighting to keep sealed police personnel and disciplinary records that have been secret for more than 40 years. Unions in court cases throughout the state are arguing that the law, Senate Bill 1421 by Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, does not apply to incidents that occurred before the law took effect on Jan. 1.

The language of the law does not expressly state that it is retroactive, the unions argue. Skinner, however, has said she intended the statute to apply to all existing documents on police use of deadly force, confirmed sexual misconduct and confirmed dishonesty.

Attorney Kelly Aviles, who is representing a collaboration of media outfits in the fight to unseal the records in Los Angeles and Orange counties, said Friday’s tentative victory is likely among the first of many.

“Finally, it’s confirmation that the union’s claims have no merit,” said Aviles of La Verne. “It’s one more step in the direction of transparency.”

Attorneys for the Los Angeles Police Protective League and the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff’s could not be reached for comment Friday night.

Aviles said they would likely appeal the decision. Most watchers on both sides believe the cases ultimately will reach the California Supreme Court.

A ruling in the Orange County case, pitting the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs against a media collaboration, is expected any day.


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