First Amendment / Media Law

Ram, Olson, Cereghino & Kopczynski LLP is one of California's top First Amendment and media law firms. Karl Olson is the partner in charge of this area of the firm's practice. The firm represents major newspapers, including The Sacramento Bee and other McClatchy newspapers, The Los Angeles Times, the California Newspaper Publishers Association, The Recorder, and other clients in matters including defamation litigation, access to public records and court proceedings, pre-publication review, reporter's shield law matters, and privacy claims. The firm recently won a landmark California Supreme Court decision for its client The Contra Costa Times holding that the names and salaries of public employees are public information. Mr. Olson has successfully defended dozens of defamation lawsuits in his nearly 30 years of law practice. The firm's efficient and skilled representation has led one client to say, "often outmanned but never outgunned."

Firm Wins Public Records Battle Over Medi-Cal Reimbursement Info

Ram, Olson, Cereghino & Kopczynski (“ROCK”) has won a Public Records Act battle for its clients the California Medical Association, California Hospital Association and California Pharmacists Association against the California Department of Health Care Services (“DHCS”).

The case involved information the state agency had exchanged with the federal government in an effort to justify the state’s planned 10 percent cutbacks in reimbursements for doctors, hospitals and pharmacists who provide services to Medi-Cal recipients.

The state claimed its exchanges with the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services were subject to the “deliberative process privilege” and thus did not have to be disclosed. But Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Lloyd Connelly disagreed, saying in a March 19 ruling that the state’s argument was “uniquely weak” and, “An informed electorate has a right to know how spending decisions are made.”

ROCK partner Karl Olson successfully handled the case for the California Medical Association, California Hospital Association and California Pharmacists Association.


Appeals court tosses fine against valley mirror

A California appeals court Wednesday tossed a $56,595 award of attorney fees and costs against Valley Mirror publisher Tim Crews which would have been a death sentence to the newspaper and might have chilled journalists statewide who pursue public records from government agencies. Read more...


Counties may be forced to reveal workers' pension payments
A ruling by a state appeals court orders Sacramento County's pension system to make public the names and pension pay for 8,500 retirees. L.A., Orange, San Diego and San Bernardino counties, among others, may have to follow suit.

California Appellate Court Shines Light On Public Employee Pensions


Firm Wins Pension Disclosure Victory

Ram, Olson, Cereghino & Kopczynski won an important victory for its clients The Sacramento Bee and the First Amendment Coalition when a Sacramento judge ruled that a Sacramento pension agency must disclose records showing who receives pensions, and how much they receive, in a case brought under the California Public Records Act. The ruling, the third won by Ram, Olson, Cereghino & Kopczynski's Karl Olson on this subject, is attached here. Ruling.


Firm Wins Pension Data for Clients

Ram, Olson, Cereghino & Kopczynski recently won an important victory for some of its newspaper clients when Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Barry Baskin ruled on July 2 that the public has a right to know the names and pension amounts of retired public employees. Karl Olson represented the California Newspaper Publishers Association, the Los Angeles Times, and the Contra Costa Times in the closely-watched case. The victory builds on the firm's triumph in a 2007 California Supreme Court case holding that the names and salaries of public employees are public information. Karl Olson of the firm represented the Contra Costa Times in that case.


Ram, Olson, Cereghino & Kopczynski's Karl Olson and recently won a landmark California Supreme Court opinion for the Contra Costa Times holding that the public has a right to know the salaries of public employees. The Supreme Court ruled, "Openness in government is essential to the functioning of a democracy." For a link to the opinion, see Internat. Federation of Prof. & Technical Engineers, Local 21, AFL-CIO v. Superior Court, (Contra Costa Newspapers) (Supreme Court of California, Case No. S134253, Aug. 27, 2007) (42 Cal.4th 319).

For media coverage of the case, see: Thomas Peele, "High court sides with Times," Contra Costa Times NBC11 TV News, including interview with Karl Olson

Selected Reported First Amendment & Media Law Decisions:

Internat. Federation of Prof. & Technical Engineers, Local 21, AFL-CIO v. Superior Court (Contra Costa Newspapers) (Supreme Court of California, 42 Cal.4th 319 (successfully represented Contra Costa Times in seeking public access to salaries of public employees).

Sacramento County Employees' Retirement System v. Superior Court (Sacramento Bee) (2011) 195 Cal. App. 4th 440 [firm represented Sacramento Bee in winning access to records showing names and pension amounts of public employees].

Carver v. Bonds, 135 Cal.App. 4th 328 (Cal. Ct. App. 2005) [obtained dismissal of libel lawsuit against San Francisco Chronicle and star athletes].

In re Elijah S., 125 Cal.App.4th 1532 (Cal. Ct. App. 2005) [represented San Francisco Chronicle in establishing right of access to child protective services records for deceased juveniles].

California ex rel. Lockyer v. Safeway, Inc., 355 F.Supp.2d 1111 (D. Cal. 2005) [granting Los Angeles Times' motion to unseal the Mutual Aid Pact entered into by grocery stores in the 2003-2004 Southern California grocery store strike and lockout].

Varian Medical Systems, Inc. v. Delfino, 35 Cal.4th 180 (Cal. 2005) [successfully represented media amici in case establishing that appeal of motions to strike under anti-SLAPP statute automatically stays proceeding].

Intel Corp. v. Hamidi, 30 Cal.4th 1342 (Cal. 2003) [represented former employee in successfully challenging tort claims and striking down injunction restricting his speech].

City of Cotati v. Cashman, 29 Cal. 4th 69 (Cal. 2002); Equilon Enterprises v. Consumer Cause, Inc., 29 Cal.4th 53 (Cal. 2002); Navellier v. Sletten, 29 Cal. 4th 82 (Cal. 2002) [successfully represented media amici in related cases determining application and scope of anti-SLAPP statute].

Cal. State Univ., Fresno Ass'n v. Superior Court, 90 Cal. App. 4th 810 (Cal. Ct. App. 2001) [represented amici California Newspaper Publishers Assn supporting newspaper's successful request for release of information on seat license agreements under California Public Records Act].

The Recorder v. Commission on Judicial Performance, 72 Cal.App.4th 258 (Cal. Ct. App. 1999) [Commission required to reveal to the public commissioners' votes on disciplinary and other proceedings].

Briggs v. Eden Council For Hope & Opportunity, 19 Cal. 4th 1106 (Cal. 1999) [represented media amici in case ensuring broad construction of anti-SLAPP statute]. For a more detailed list of the firm's First Amendment/media law cases and a selection of decisions and publications, see Attorney Profiles/Karl Olson.