California Landmark Cases on in Camera Review

Criminal defendants have a limited right to gain access to records upon a showing of good cause. (Evid. Code 1045.) Where good cause is established, the court will conduct an in camera review of the personnel records to determine whether they have any relevance to the issues before the court. (City of Santa Cruz v. Municipal Court (1989) 49 Cal.3d 74, 80, 83; California Highway Patrol v. Superior Court (2000) 84 Cal.App.4th 1010, 1020.) A showing of good cause for an in camera review 'requires a defendant seeking Pitchess discovery to establish not only a logical link between the defense proposed and the pending charge, but also to articulate how the discovery being sought would support such a defense or how it would impeach the officer's version of events.' (Warrick v. Superior Court (2005) 35 Cal.4th 1011, 1021.) A defendant must put forward 'a plausible scenario of officer misconduct' -- 'one that might or could have occurred.' (Id. at p. 1026.) What is key is that the defendant show a logical connection between the alleged misconduct sought to be discovered and a proposed trial defense. (Id. at pp. 1026-27.) "The trial court's ruling on a motion to discover police officer personnel records is reviewed for abuse of discretion. (People v. Samayoa (1997) 15 Cal.4th 795, 827; California Highway Patrol v. Superior Court, supra, 84 Cal.App.4th at p. 1019.)"