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Alex Rosas and Jonathan Goodwin, On Behalf of Themselves and of Those v. Leroy Baca

June 7, 2012

ALEX ROSAS AND JONATHAN GOODWIN, ON BEHALF OF THEMSELVES AND OF THOSE SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
LEROY BACA, SHERIFF OF LOS ANGELES COUNTY JAILS; PAUL TANAKA, UNDERSHERIFF, LOS ANGELES SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT; CECIL RHAMBO, ASSISTANT SHERIFF, LOS ANGELES SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT AND DENNIS BURNS, CHIEF OF CUSTODY OPERATIONS DIVISION, LOS ANGELES SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dean D. Pregerson United States District Judge

O

I. Introduction

ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR CLASS CERTIFICATION AND DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS

[Dkt Nos. 20, 36]

Presently before the court is Plaintiffs' Motion for Class Certification under Rule 23(b)(2). Having considered the submissions of the parties and heard oral argument, the court grants the motion and adopts the following order. The court notes that the threshold for satisfying class certification requirements is relatively low. See Parkinson v. Hyundai Motor Am., 258 F.R.D. 580, 594 (C.D. Cal. 2008). The granting of this class certification motion is a procedural step allowing this matter to go forward. It is not intended, and does not constitute an opinion on the ultimate merits of the lawsuit.

The court has great confidence in the leadership and integrity of both sides to this dispute. The parties have proved to be effective partners in crafting cooperative solutions to issues raised in other, related matters before this court. Nothing in this order shall be read to discourage the parties from continuing to pursue collaborative efforts to address jail-related matters of mutual concern.

I. Background

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has the responsibility of running the largest and likely most challenging jail system in the country. It is a system which admits and discharges over 150,000 inmates a year and is responsible, among other matters, for delivering inmates to courthouses located throughout the county. The inmate population is comprised of individuals charged with crimes ranging from misdemeanors to homicides, and includes pre-trial detainees, inmates who have been convicted and sentenced, and, under California's "realignment" program, an increasing number of state prisoners.

A substantial portion of the inmate population has serious medical and mental health needs, disability issues, and drug and alcohol dependency problems. While many inmates are non-violent or low-level offenders, a significant number are hard-core gang members or present other serious security threats. Inmates are often housed in outdated facilities that are long past their life cycles, and were never designed to accommodate inmates as numerous and complex as today's jail population. It is in this context, against a challenging backdrop of dwindling fiscal resources and an increasing inmate population, that the Sheriff's Department has endeavored to fulfill its custodial responsibilities to both inmates and the public.

The American Civil Liberties Union's mission, in part, is to protect inmates' constitutional rights, and further to ensure that inmates are housed in a safe, humane environment that provides opportunities for rehabilitation. Consistent with these interests, the ACLU's monitors have, by order of this court and with the cooperation of the Sheriff's Department, had access to the jail, inmates, and senior Sheriff's Department jail supervisors.

The Sheriff's Department and the ACLU have a long history of both litigation and collaboration on jail-related matters. During some of that history, this court has decided contested issues and worked with the parties to identify and resolve issues of mutual concern, often without the need of formal litigation. The Los Angeles County Office of Independent Review has also been of great assistance to the court and the parties in resolving disputes.

Here, the ACLU, on behalf of Plaintiffs, has presented evidence to the court and to the Sheriff's Department of alleged instances of deputy-on-inmate and inmate-on-inmate altercations. The ACLU asserts that such examples are the result of deficiencies in the management of the jail system. (First Amended Complaint ¶¶ 3, 13.)

The Sheriff's Department has acknowledged the ACLU's concerns, and has made commendable efforts to implement positive jail reforms and new initiatives, such as the establishment of new investigatory and management task forces. The ACLU has made significant contributions to these reform efforts. The court has no doubt that the Sheriff's Department and the ACLU sincerely share the common goal of making the downtown Los Angeles jail the best possible facility.

The court recognizes that, while the Sheriff's Department and ACLU continue to work together to achieve this common goal, differences may arise requiring a judicial resolution. This lawsuit is a vehicle by which the plaintiffs may seek relief. Here, Plaintiffs seek only declaratory and injunctive relief on behalf of themselves and other current and future inmates in the downtown Los ...


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