Tuesday, May 27, 2014

PMSA Wins Public Records Lawsuit

By Mark Edward Nero

The San Francisco Superior Court granted the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association a significant victory on May 23 when it awarded the PMSA more than $260,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs against the State of California as a result of a Public Records Act lawsuit.

The PMSA had been seeking records documenting pilot assignments on the San Francisco Bay, and the Superior Court declared that PMSA’s case established that the Port Agent is a public official subject to the Public Records Act and that, as a result, the records he uses regarding the working hours and rest periods of the state-licensed pilots who navigate vessels in and around the San Francisco Bay must be made public.

“Our goal is to ensure that cargo vessels are safely and legally navigated in the San Francisco Bay, and for this to happen we need transparency and accountability in our state pilotage system,” PMSA General Counsel Mike Jacob said. “When assignment documents are made public anyone can see when state-licensed pilots are dispatched to ships, evaluate pilots’ actual working conditions, independently confirm pilots’ work hours, or verify minimum rest period violations. We are pleased that as a result of this action we have ensured the public’s right to access records used by the Port Agent and that the Superior Court has vindicated our efforts.”

The original case was filed in July 2012 in San Francisco Superior Court.

“Our efforts were supported by the ACLU, the California Newspapers Publishers Association, First Amendment Coalition, LA Times and McClatchy newspapers,” PMSA President John McLaurin told Pacific Maritime Magazine Online via email.