Can a Public Official Refuse Disclosure in California

Government Code section 6259 provides that an order of the trial court supporting the decision of a public official refusing disclosure of material requested under the Act "is not a final judgment or order within the meaning of Section 904.1 of the Code of Civil Procedure from which an appeal may be taken, but shall be immediately reviewable by petition to the appellate court for the issuance of an extraordinary writ." (Gov. Code, 6259, subd. (c); see Filarsky v. Superior Court (2002) 28 Cal.4th 419, 426 (Filarsky); Powers v. City of Richmond (1995) 10 Cal.4th 85, 89; Consolidated Irrigation Dist. v. Superior Court (2012) 205 Cal.App.4th 697, 702-703.) The three-justice lead opinion in Powers, undertaking a lengthy textual and historical analysis, held that the California Constitution did not confer on a litigant a right to a direct appeal to the Court of Appeal for a case falling within the superior court's original jurisdiction. (Powers v. City of Richmond, supra, 10 Cal.4th at pp. 91-110.) A concurring opinion of Justices George and Arabian declined to announce a broad constitutional rule, but limited its decision to the Act, and held the Act's provision did not violate the " 'appellate jurisdiction' " provision of the Constitution without construing the provision. (Powers, at pp. 115-117 (conc. opn. of George, J.).) The concurring justices considered it unnecessary to decide whether the provision at issue, California Constitution, article VI, section 11, should be interpreted to permit the Legislature to substitute writ review for direct appeal in cases other than the present context. (Powers, at pp. 123-124 (conc. opn. of George, J.).) This provision of the Act, which has been upheld against a challenge that it violates the " 'appellate jurisdiction' " provision of the state Constitution (Powers v. City of Richmond, 10 Cal.4th at pp. 89-90),unambiguously forecloses an appeal and instead expressly authorizes a writ as the sole and exclusive means to challenge the trial court's ruling. (See, e.g., People v. Superior Court (Jimenez) (2002) 28 Cal.4th 798, 802 Code Civ. Proc., 170.3, subd. (d), providing the "determination of the question of the disqualification of a judge is not an appealable order and may be reviewed only by a writ of mandate from the appropriate court of appeal ..." filed within 10 days after service of written of notice of entry of the court's order is the exclusive means for seeking review of a ruling on a peremptory challenge to a judge; see also People v. Hull (1991) 1 Cal.4th 266, 275 "The Legislature, through Code of Civil Procedure section 170.3(d), has specifically determined that a writ of mandate shall be the exclusive means of challenging a denial of a motion to disqualify a judge.".) Further, the writ petition must be filed within 20 days after service of the notice of entry of the order either directing disclosure or supporting the decision refusing disclosure, or within an additional 20 days as the trial court may allow for good cause. (Gov. Code, 6259, subd. (c); Filarsky v. Superior Court (2002) 28 Cal.4th 419 at p. 426.) The 20-day period within which to file the petition "shall be increased by five days" if the notice is served by mail. (Gov. Code, 6259, subd. (c).) Such legislatively prescribed statutory deadlines are mandatory and jurisdictional. (See In re Antilia (2009) 176 Cal.App.4th 622, 630 "A time limit prescribed by the Legislature for filing a petition for writ of mandate is jurisdictional."; e.g., Eldridge v. Superior Court (1989) 208 Cal.App.3d 1350, 1352 then 10-day statutory time limitation for filing a petition for extraordinary writ review of an order summarily adjudicating issues is jurisdictional; Abadjian v. Superior Court (1985) 168 Cal.App.3d 363, 369 same; Sturm, Ruger & Co. v. Superior Court (1985) 164 Cal.App.3d 579 same; Bensimon v. Superior Court (2003) 113 Cal.App.4th 1257 7 Cal. Rptr. 3d 151 20-day statutory time limit in Code Civ. Proc., 437c, subd. (m)(1) to file peremptory writ is jurisdictional and not extended by a motion for reconsideration.) Thus, if a writ petition is not filed within the time limit, we are without power to review the merits of the trial court's ruling. In Filarsky v. Superior Court (2002) 28 Cal.4th 419, the California Supreme Court explained this limitation: "The purpose of the provision limiting appellate review of the trial court's order to a petition for extraordinary writ is to prohibit public agencies from delaying the disclosure of public records by appealing a trial court decision and using continuances in order to frustrate the intent of the Act. The legislative objective was to expedite the process and make the appellate remedy more effective. Indeed, the Act's provision regarding a public agency's obligation to act promptly upon receiving a request for disclosure (Gov. Code, 6253, subd. (c)), the provision directing the trial court in a proceeding under the Act to reach a decision as soon as possible (Gov. Code, 6258), and the provision for expedited appellate review (Gov. Code, 6259, subd. (c)) all reflect a clear legislative intent that the determination of the obligation to disclose records requested from a public agency be made expeditiously." (Filarsky, supra, 28 Cal.4th at pp. 426-427.) The Legislature expressly specified that an order denying disclosure falls within the short statutory time limit. Thus, it is of no import that this case does not concern City's ability or need to delay disclosure of its records.