Kamp, 021783 CAAGO, AGO 82-810

Docket Nº:AGO 82-810
Case Date:February 17, 1983
Court:California
 
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JOHN K. VAN DE KAMP Attorney General
ANTHONY S. DA VIGO Deputy Attorney General
AGO 82-810
No. 82-810
California Attorney General Opinion
Office of the Attorney General State of California
February 17, 1983
         THE HONORABLE GLENDON B. CRAIG, DIRECTOR, DIVISION OF LAW ENFORCEMENT, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, has requested an opinion on the following question:          Who is entitled, under section 12525 of the Government Code, to inspect a report of death of a person in custody of a law enforcement agency or correctional facility?          CONCLUSION          Those persons, corporations, or entities, public or private, which have some legally cognizable interest, as a right, claim, title, or duty with respect to the subject matter of the report are entitled, under section 12525 of the Government Code, to inspect a report of death of a person in custody of a law enforcement agency or correctional facility, except as to matters deemed privileged by the Attorney General.          ANALYSIS          Government Code section 12525 provides as follows:
"In any case in which a person dies while in the custody of any law enforcement agency or while in custody in a local or state correctional facility in this State, such law enforcement agency or the agency in charge of such correctional facility shall report in writing to the Attorney General, within 10 days after the death, all facts in the possession of the law enforcement agency or agency in charge of the correctional facility concerning the death. Such writing shall be available for inspection by interested parties, except as to matters deemed privileged by the Attorney General." (Emphasis added.)
         The inquiry presented requires an analysis, in the absence of any statutory specification or indication, of the term "interested parties." We begin with the basic precept that a statute theoretically capable of more than one construction must be interpreted in a manner which most comports with the intent of the Legislature. (California Mfrs. Assn. v. Public Utilities Com. (1979) 24 Cal.3d 836, 844.) In determining such intent, the terms of a statute must be accorded their usual and ordinary import. (Moyer v. Workmen's Comp. App. Bd. (1973) 10 Cal.3d 222, 230.) Further, every word, phrase and provision in a statute is intended to have meaning and to perform a useful function. (White v. County of Sacramento (1982) 31 Cal.3d 676, 681.)          The words "interested" and "parties" are patently ambiguous and theoretically capable of more than one construction. "Interested" is defined in Webster's Third New International Dictionary (1961) at page 1178:
"1: having the attention engaged: having curiosity or sympathy aroused . . . . 2: having a share or concern in some affair or project: liable to be affected or prejudiced: CONCERNED, INVOLVED . . . .; esp: having self-interest: not disinterested . . . ."
         Thus, the term may refer to a person who is simply curious, or who is liable to be affected by the resolution of some question.          "Party" is defined in pertinent part in Webster's, supra, at page 1648:
"1 obs: a part of a whole: DIVISION, PORTION, SHARE 2 a: one (as a person or group) constituting alone or with others one of the two sides in proceeding . . . . b(1): one (as an individual, firm, or corporation) that constitutes the plaintiff or the defendant in a lawsuit: LITIGANT (2): one directly disclosed by the record to be so involved in the prosecution or defense of a proceeding as to be bound by the decision or judgment therein (3): one indirectly disclosed by the record as being directly interested in the subject matter of a suit or as having power to make a defense, control the proceedings, or appeal from the judgment 3 a: a body of persons
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