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US Supreme Court Turns Down Appeal to Protect Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca From Inmate's Personal Injury Lawsuit Over Gang Stabbing in Jail

December 31, 1969

The US Supreme Court has turned down an appeal from Los Angeles County that seeks to shield Sheriff Lee Baca from a California negligence lawsuit filed by an inmate who was attacked by other inmates while behind bars in 2006. The plaintiff, Dion Starr, claims that gang members stabbed him 23 times while he was at the Central Men's Jail. He also contends that a guard not only saw what happened and refused to intervene, but also that the latter kicked him in the face.

Starr is suing Baca and the deputies and guards that were at the assault scene that day for Los Angeles personal injury. He claims that a deputy even unlocked his cell door, which is how the gang inmates got to him. He says that even though Baca knew there was violence at the LA County jail after special counsel Merrick Bobb issued a report about inmate injuries and deaths (some were caused by other inmates) in 2005, the sheriff had been "deliberately indifferent" to the dangerous conditions there.

In 2008, a federal judge dismissed Starr's Los Angeles personal injury lawsuit on the grounds that the U.S. Supreme Court previously had found that top law enforcement officers cannot be held liable for subordinates' discriminatory actions and that there was no evidence to personally connect Baca to the attack. However, last year the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in this case that Starr could sue the sheriff. In a 2-1 vote, the three-judge panel said that past decisions made by the high court did not apply to the constitutional violations that Starr is alleging.

In choosing not to hear LA County's appeal, The Supreme Court did not provide comment on why.

"Just because you've been arrested or convicted of a crime doesn't mean you aren't entitled to certain protections and rights," said Howard Law, PC partner and Los Angeles police brutality lawyer Vincent Howard.

Law enforcement officers supervising a jail, prison, detention room or holding cell cannot use excessive force against you or intimidate you with verbal intimidation, emotional abuse, or sexual harassment. They also must sure that you are kept in a safe environment where you are protected from harm. They also cannot deprive you of the ability to meet your basic needs and deny you any necessary medical care.

Supreme Court rejects bid to shield Sheriff Lee Baca from lawsuit, Los Angeles Times, April 30, 2012

Read the district court's judgment from 2009 granting Baca's motion to dismiss (PDF)

Read the 9th Circuit's 2009 opinion (PDF)

More Blog Posts:
Appeals Court says Los Angeles Personal Injury Lawsuit Against County Sheriff Lee Baca Over Brutality in Jail Can Proceed, California Injury Lawyer Blog, February 12, 2011

Your initial consultation with Los Angeles excessive use of force attorney Vincent Howard is free.

$121M Los Angeles Wrongful Death Claim Filed Against the City Over Teenager's Fatal Shooting on the 101 by the LAPD, California Injury Lawyer Blog, April 18, 2012

Huntington Beach Police Brutality Lawsuit Alleges Inappropriate Touching, Unlawful Arrest, and Excessive Use of Force, California Injury Lawyer Blog, March 23, 2012

Orange County, California Wrongful Death Lawsuit Likely in Sheriff's Deputy Shooting of Camp Pendleton Marine, California Injury Lawyer Blog, February 29, 2012

"Many people in police custody don't realize that they have certain rights and often they are too scared to speak out about what's happened to them," said Los Angeles injury attorney Vincent Howard. "You may be entitled to compensation for the harm that you have suffered.

Your initial consultation with Los Angeles excessive use of force attorney Vincent Howard is free.