CPRA Disclosure Not Required for Attorney-to-Client Billing Invoices
In County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors v.
Superior Court, No. B257230 (Cal. Ct. App. Apr 13,
2015), the California Court of Appeal has concluded that public
agencies are not required to disclose under the California Public
Records Act (CPRA) billing invoices sent to them by their
The question in the case was whether billing invoices sent by an attorney to its public agency client must be disclosed pursuant to CPRA, or whether they are protected under attorney-client privilege. The case surfaced following excessive force investigations within the Los Angeles County jail system. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California demanded invoices of the County’s bills from outside law firms in connection with lawsuits regarding the alleged excessive force. Los Angeles County argued that the invoices were protected attorney-client communications as outlined in Evidence Code provisions in state law.
So when is communication subject to attorney-client privilege and therefore exempt from disclosure under CPRA? According to the court’s decision, it is whether the communication is:
- between a client and his or her attorney in the course of that relationship and,
- made in confidence.
This case represents a positive outcome for counties, although counties should remain diligent in their close review of documents for the purposes of CPRA disclosure.