Watchdog Group Represented by UCI Law IPAT Clinic Sues LA County for Hiding 1,000 Misconduct Cases Against Sheriff's Department and DA's Office


IRVINE, Calif. (April 29, 2021) — A law enforcement watchdog group represented by the University of California, Irvine School of Law (UCI Law) Intellectual Property, Arts, and Technology Clinic sued the County of Los Angeles today for refusing to disclose approximately 1,000 misconduct claims and lawsuits against the Sheriff’s Department and District Attorney’s Office. The County settled the claims and lawsuits for more than a half a billion dollars over eight years. The Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), a non-profit law enforcement and prison watchdog group that publishes Prison Legal News and Criminal Legal News, alleges in its lawsuit that the County’s refusal to release the records violates the California Public Records Act.

A copy of the complaint can be found here.

“The public has a right to know the details of these claims and lawsuits, and settlements, which cost taxpayers more than $550 million in attorney fees and settlement costs from 2012 to 2020,” said Paul Wright, Executive Director of HRDC. “At a time when the public overwhelmingly supports police reform, the County cannot choose to keep the problems with its Sheriff’s Department and District Attorney’s Office under a veil of secrecy."

The County refused to provide copies of pre-litigation claims, lawsuits, settlement agreements and court judgments, which contain details about “wrongful deaths, excessive force, sexual assaults, and other misconduct” by sheriff’s deputies and prosecutorial misconduct by prosecutors, according to the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.

“It’s absurd. The County claims that it's in the public interest to keep these documents secret because it’s just too hard for the County to search for the documents,” said UCI Law Adjunct Clinical Law Professor Susan E. Seager, who is representing the HRDC in the litigation. “But the law doesn’t allow the County to just throw up its hands and say it’s too hard without even trying to search."

“We call on all five LA County Board of Supervisors to order the disclosure of these records right now,” said Seager. “The supervisors have the legal power to end this lawsuit if they choose openness over giving the gift of secrecy to the Sheriff’s Department and District Attorney’s Office.”

UCI Law student Sabrina Victor who helped write the lawsuit said, “This lack of transparency violates voters and taxpayers right to know of the rampant police misconduct plaguing their neighborhoods, especially during this time in which our community must hold the LASD accountable for failing to adequately address and discipline unethical behavior.”

The only documents provided by the County were three spreadsheets of the County’s payment amounts for approximately 1,000 pre-litigation claims and lawsuits settled against the Sheriff’s Department and District Attorney’s Office between January 1, 2010 and June 30, 2019, the lawsuit says.

"If the County were to disclose its cache of nearly a decade of claims, lawsuits, settlement agreements, and court judgments, the disclosure would allow the public to look for misconduct trends developing over the years and identify problem officers who are defendants in more than one claim or lawsuit," said Seager.

Since 1990 the Human Rights Defense Center has advocated for progressive criminal justice reform and the rights of prisoners, detainees and their families. For more information see

About the UCI Law Intellectual Propety, Arts, and Technology Clinic

Law students in the UCI Law Intellectual Property, Arts, and Technology Clinic work to support innovation and creative expression in the digital age. In the Clinic, students advise and represent clients on a range of matters dealing with copyright, patent, privacy and media law, among other areas. Through this work, they gain important legal skills while examining the role of the public interest in intellectual property and technology law. More about the Clinic is available here.

About the University of California, Irvine School of Law

The University of California, Irvine School of Law is a visionary law school that provides an innovative and comprehensive curriculum, prioritizes public service, and demonstrates a commitment to diversity within the legal profession. UCI Law students have completed more than 110,000 hours of pro bono work in the past decade. Forty-six percent of UCI Law’s graduates are students of color. At UCI Law, we are driven to improve our local, national, and global communities by grappling with important issues as scholars, as practitioners, and as teachers who are preparing the next generation of leaders. The collaborative and interdisciplinary community at UCI Law includes extraordinary students, world-renowned faculty, dedicated staff, engaged alumni, and enthusiastic supporters. More information on UCI Law is available here. Please follow us on Twitter @ucilaw and on Facebook @UCIrvineLaw.

Media Contacts:

Susan E. Seager
Adjunct Clinical Law Professor, UCI Law
Phone: (949) 824-5447 

Paul Wright
Executive Director, HRDC
Phone: (802) 275-8594

Mojgan Sherkat
Media Relations Specialist
Phone: (949) 824-7937