ACLU Foundation of Northern California v. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

Closed Case
Dec 20, 2011

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On Nov. 17, 2010, the ACLU Foundation of Northern California filed a suit under the California Public Records Act to demand records from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) about its recent acquisition of sodium thiopental, a controlled substance used as part of California's lethal injection protocol for executing death row inmates.

In late September, the CDCR asked the courts to allow it to conduct an execution before the end of the month because its supply of sodium thiopental was about to expire and it would be unable to obtain any more of the drug before 2011. Then, on Oct. 6, the CDCR suddenly announced it had obtained a new supply but did not explain how it had done so. On Oct. 7, 2010, the ACLU Foundation of Northern California submitted a California Public Records Act (PRA) request to obtain records relating to this surprising development. The request asks for basic records relating to the CDCR's acquisition, use, and destruction of sodium thiopental, including copies of the packaging and inserts and instructions for use that came with the drug.

The CDCR failed to produce any of the records, even though the Department admits the public has a right to examine at least some of the records about its new supply of the potentially lethal drug.  

The initial hearing in the case was held on Nov. 30, 2010 in San Francisco Superior Court.

On Dec. 8, 2010, the ACLU Foundation of Northern California received responsive documents from the CDCR. These documents are available here:

Responsive documents »

The Superior Court ordered CDCR to release additional documents, and the California Court of Appeal then ordered the release of even more documents, rejecting the government’s arguments that it could hide the names of the companies involved in supplying the drugs because of the controversy surrounding the death penalty. American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California v. Superior Court, 202 Cal. App. 4th 55 (2011).

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