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Paul Hastings and ACLU Achieve Historic Settlement in LA Jails Case

Los Angeles, CA – Paul Hastings, a leading global law firm, took on the administrators of the largest jail system in the country in a pro bono case involving the brutal treatment of inmates by deputies.  In December 2014, Paul Hastings, the ACLU of Southern California, and the ACLU National Prison Project achieved a historic settlement in Rosas v. Scott (formerly Rosas v. Baca).  Final judicial approval of the settlement was announced on April 20, 2015.

The agreement provides for wide-ranging change in the Los Angeles County jails.  The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (“LASD”) will adopt a detailed plan – drawn up by a panel of three experts – to reform department policies and practices on use of force.  Among other things, the experts’ action plan will usher in important reforms to the LASD’s use of force training and policies, the use of certain weapons and restraints on inmates, the process of investigating and documenting use of force incidents, and the procedures by which inmates file grievances.  Court-appointed monitors will ensure that these changes are timely implemented and that the LASD maintains its compliance with the reforms into the future. 

Filed in January 2012, on behalf of Alex Rosas and Jonathan Goodwin, two pretrial detainees who were viciously beaten by deputies, the federal suit alleged violations of inmates’ Eighth Amendment rights to be free of cruel and unusual punishment and the rights of pretrial detainees not to be punished prior to conviction.  The Complaint chronicled dozens of incidents of savage beatings and threats of violence by deputies.  In the face of this longstanding pattern of deputy abuse, Paul Hastings argued that the then-Sheriff Lee Baca was deliberately indifferent to the significant risk that inmates would be severely injured by deputies’ use of unnecessary and excessive force and that the LASD had failed to take reasonable steps to remedy the problem.  

In the prosecution of the Rosas lawsuit, the firm withstood multiple challenges by Sheriff Baca to dismiss or otherwise delay the lawsuit and successfully obtained class certification to broaden the reach of the lawsuit to cover all present and future inmates in the Los Angeles County jails.

Following the filing of the lawsuit, the allegations in the Complaint found support in the findings of an independent blue ribbon commission formed at the behest of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to conduct a review of use of force in the jails.  Moreover, partially spurred on by the Rosas litigation, the United States Department of Justice is investigating both the LASD’s treatment of inmates with mental illness as well as its use of excessive force. 

“I am very proud of the outcome of this case,” said Paul Hastings partner John Durrant.  “We litigated this matter vigorously, working alongside the ACLU to develop arguments regarding novel and complex constitutional and statutory issues.  In terms of a result, we couldn’t be happier.  We achieved practically everything we set out to do, forcing the implementation of reforms that should go a long way towards making sure that inmates held in Los Angeles County will be free from abuse, that deputies will be subject to reasonable restrictions on the use of force, and that the LASD puts in place a meaningful review process when force is used.  A number of Paul Hastings attorneys worked on the matter over the years.  I am very grateful to each of those attorneys and to the Firm for standing so resolutely behind our efforts.” 

The Paul Hastings team was led by John Durrant and Beth Mueller Sloan.   Over the years the case was pending, a number of Paul Hastings attorneys worked on the matter and contributed to this successful resolution, including partner Donna Melby and associates Melinda Gordon, Felicia Davis, Ryan Crain, Deborah Kang, Scott Klausner, and Ryan Walsh.

Read the settlement: https://www.aclusocal.org/cases/rosas-v-baca/settlement/

Implementation Plan: https://www.aclusocal.org/cases/rosas-v-baca/implementation-plan

Paul Hastings LLP is a leading global law firm with offices in Asia, Europe, and the United States. We provide innovative legal solutions to financial institutions and Fortune 500 companies. Please visit www.paulhastings.comfor more information.