California Supreme Court Holds That Information Contained In Invoices For Active Legal Matters Is Privileged And Not Subject To Disclosure Under The California Public Records Act Only Where The Information Relates To Legal Consultation

January 23, 2017

In a decision that “implicates both the public’s interest in transparency and a public agency’s interest in confidential communications with its legal counsel,” the California Supreme Court held in Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors v. Superior Court, et al. __ Cal.4th __, Case No. S226645 (Cal. Supreme Court, Dec. 29, 2016) that invoices for work in pending and active legal matters is privileged and protected from disclosure under the California Public Records Act (“PRA”; Gov. Code, §§ 6253, et seq.) to the extent that the invoices either communicate information for the purpose of legal consultation or risk exposing information that was communicated for such a purpose.  This case will significantly affect public agencies as well as outside counsel hired by public agencies for litigation and other purposes.  Although the facts of this case involved billing invoices for ongoing litigation matters, the Supreme Court’s opinion suggests that the privilege extends to the content of billing invoices in any ongoing matter, whether litigation-related or not, and would therefore exempt invoices containing such information from disclosure under the PRA.

Paige H. Gosney