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Ninth Circuit: Los Angeles County Not Liable for Occasional Over-Detentions
In a previous opinion, Berry v. Baca, 379 F.3d 764 (9th Cir. 2004) [PLN, March 2005, p.32], the Ninth Circuit had reversed the district court’s prior grant of summary judgment to Baca. In so ruling, the Court of Appeals explained that the district court had failed to apply the analytical framework appropriate for determining whether or not “action pursuant to official policy of some nature caused a constitutional tort,” citing Monell v. Dep’t. of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978). In particular, the Ninth Circuit said the district court had failed to address the issue of deliberate indifference.
Following remand, both sides submitted evidence in the form of exhibits and declarations. That evidence indicated that the Sheriff’s Department processed tens of thousands of detainees every year and, during the period under review, had released nearly 51,000 prisoners. While the exact number of over-detentions exceeding 24 hours was disputed, it was not disputed that the number had peaked in 1997 (at approximately 250) and had declined every subsequent year through 2004. Moreover, it was clear that the total number of over-detentions during the time period at issue did not exceed a few dozen.
Additionally, there was no dispute that the Sheriff’s Department had instituted several measures designed to reduce the number of over-detentions.
Based on the evidence presented, the district court concluded that as a matter of law, given the volume of detainees and the attendant administrative paperwork that must be processed to ensure any given release is not improper, a few dozen over-detentions during a period of several years was “reasonable and cannot constitute a Monell deliberate indifference claim.”
The Ninth Circuit affirmed in a February 5, 2010 decision, holding that based on the evidentiary record, including the curative steps taken by the Sheriff’s Department, “no reasonable jury could find that the defendant was oblivious of, or indifferent to, over-detentions.” See: Mortimer v. Baca, 594 F.3d 714 (9th Cir. 2010).
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Related legal case
Mortimer v. Baca
|Cite||594 F.3d 714 (9th Cir. 2010)|
|Level||Court of Appeals|