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California Sheriffs Entitled to Sovereign Immunity

The California Supreme Court has held that a sheriffs act on behalf of the state when performing law enforcement activities, which makes them absolutely immune from tort liability under 42 U.S.C. §1983 action.

That rationale comes because the Court found that California sheriffs act as state, rather than county, officers while performing state law enforcement duties such as investigating possible criminal activity. Had they acted as county officials, the would not be entitled to sovereign immunity.

The Court further held that the County and Sheriff could be liable under Civil Code Section 52.1, which is a state action that allows a civil action for equitable or injunctive relief “if a person interferes, or attempts to interfere, by threats, intimidation, or coercion, with the exercise of the constitutional or statutory rights of any individual or individuals.” See: Venegas v. County of Los Angeles, 32 Cal. 4th 820 (Cal. 2004).

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Related legal case

Venegas v. County of Los Angeles