Judge rules office records of ex-Sens. Calderon and Yee must be disclosed

Judge rules office records of ex-Sens. Calderon and Yee must be disclosed
Sen. Ron Calderon, right, on the floor of the state Senate in 2007, with Sen. Leland Yee to his left. A judge in Sacramento this week ordered the release of their calendars and other office documents requested by the press. (Robert Durell / Los Angeles Times)

A Sacramento County judge has ruled that meeting schedules, office calendars and other official records of former state Sens. Leland Yee and Ronald S. Calderon are public records, despite efforts by the state Legislature to block their release.

The leader of the Senate said Friday that he would comply with the court order.

Yee and Calderon, both Democrats, are awaiting trial on federal corruption charges.

Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Kenney ruled in favor of the Contra Costa Times, San Jose Mercury News and other news organizations that sought the records in a lawsuit.

The state Senate's representatives asserted that the documents were exempt from disclosure under the Legislative Open Records Act.

In his ruling, Kenney noted that the requested information concerns meetings referred to in federal indictments in connection with alleged bribery and other illegal conduct.

"The public interest in the disclosure of the requested documents is pronounced," Kenney wrote. Attorneys for the Legislature failed to prove that legislative privilege barred their release, the judge said.

The judge rejected the Legislature's argument that disclosure created a security risk.

Both senators were suspended in March 2014. Yee, a San Francisco resident, and Calderon, of Montebello, have since left office.

In response to the court decision, Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) said Friday that he would make records public.

"I have instructed Legislative Counsel to immediately collaborate with the Bay Area News Group's attorneys to determine precisely what documentation needs to be released and to make it available as soon as possible," De León said in a statement. "The judge's decision fairly balances the interests at stake and it is one that I support. We have no plans to appeal."

The judge did block a request for office records of De León. Kenney noted that, unlike Yee and Calderon, De León has not been accused of any illegal activity related to his office.

Kenney found that protecting the integrity of De León's deliberative process as a lawmaker outweighed the public interest in disclosure.

San Francisco attorney Duffy Carolan, an attorney for the newspapers, said her clients were "very happy" with the ruling. She said that attorneys for the Legislature have 20 days to appeal the ruling.