On January 18, 2012, prisoners at the Los Angeles County Jail filed this class action in the United States Court for the Central District of California. The prisoners sued the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department (LASD) under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The prisoners, represented by the ACLU of Southern California, asked the Court for declaratory and injunctive relief, claiming that their Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights had been violated. Specifically, they claimed that violence by LASD deputies -- "sadistic beat[ing] of inmates" that included "broken legs, fractured eye sockets, shattered jaws, broken teeth, severe head injuries, nerve damage, dislocated joints, collapsed lungs, and wounds requiring dozens of stitches and 22 staples" -- violated the constitutional rights of the plaintiffs.
This case's origins lie in the landmark case Rutherford v. Block (JC-CA-0018
in this Clearinghouse). That case resulted in the appointment of a special master to monitor and report reform efforts in the Los Angeles Jail system. The 30 semiannual reports submitted in that litigation highlight the illegal treatment of mentally ill detainees and the incidence of violence in the Los Angeles Jail system.
The ACLU also submitted annual reports on the Los Angeles County Jail system in the Rutherford litigation. Its reports alleged the rise of a gang of deputies who were supervising the jail. The plaintiffs alleged that this gang, the "3000 boys," incited and committed violence against prisoners, and competed with other jail deputy gangs for control of the jail, involving the prisoners in their struggle for control. Members of the gang were said to have a "3000" tattoo on the back of their necks.
The plaintiffs in this case cited reports from prisoners, ACLU reports, and quotes from the Sheriff of Los Angeles that confirmed the existence of the gang, though the activities of the gang were disputed. The plaintiffs also alleged that a culture of violence had taken root in the county jail, citing multiple incidences of mentally ill prisoners being beaten and men being beaten for witnessing other beatings. The plaintiffs also alleged that several of these beatings resulted in disciplinary segregation for the victims. Other incidents were witnessed by chaplains, in-jail educators, and visitors. The plaintiffs described taunting and beatings that were were racially motivated, disproportionately affected the mentally ill, and constituted punishment for perceived slights rather than violations of jail policy. They also claimed that prisoners conferring with the ACLU were particularly subject to violence. There were 51 specific incidents set forth in the complaint that occurred in 2010-2011, however the plaintiffs alleged that the violence had been ongoing for at least 12 years.
On June 7, 2012, the Court (Judge Dean Pregerson) issued an unpublished order that certified the plaintiff class and denied the Defendants' motion to dismiss. 2012 WL 2061694 (C.D. Cal. June 7, 2012). Then, the parties continued with discovery and entered into settlement talks from 2012-2015.
On January 6, 2015, both parties filed a joint motion for a settlement. The settlement was approved in April 2015. Under the settlement agreement, the Sheriff's Department will adopt a detailed and far-reaching plan to reform department policies and practices on use of force. A panel of three court-appointed experts, who were assigned to write the plan, will monitor the department's compliance with all aspects of the remedial plan. The defendants also agreed to pay $950,000 in attorneys' fees and to pay reasonable attorneys' fees for ongoing work to ensure compliance with the settlement up to $30,000 per year. The plaintiffs' attorneys will act as the monitors. The settlement also included enhanced training in use of force for all deputies and methods for tracking and review of use of force incidents and detainees' complaints and grievances. To apply to the court for termination of the agreement consistent with the PLRA, the defendant had to maintain compliance for 18 months as monitored by the panel.
On April 21, 2015, the Court (Judge Dean Pregerson) approved the settlement and dismissed the case. However, the court retained jurisdiction to enforce the terms of the settlement. Blase Kearney - 07/24/2012
Jessica Kincaid - 10/30/2015