ACLU Appeals Order Blocking Lawsuit on Deputy Cheating

California Court of Appeal in Santa Ana (Photo by R. Scott Moxley)

An Orange County judge—who in February blocked a lawsuit pertaining to the sheriff’s illegal use of jailhouse informants and then hiding evidence of their corruption—was misguided, according to an appeal filed today by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Superior Court Judge Glenda Sanders ruled that advancement of the case might violate separation of powers principles, unduly burden government officials with paperwork, tamper prosecutorial discretion and give an unworthy legal forum to the ACLU’s clients, a group of Orange County taxpayers who’ve organized People For The Ethical Operation of Prosecutors and Law Enforcement (P.E.O.P.L.E.).

Sanders based her reasoning, in part, on laughable claims by the County Counsel’s office, which represents the offending Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD). 

According to the County Counsel, the jailhouse informant scandal was imaginary; never mind that it wrecked at least 20 major felony cases based on deputy cheating, prompted national headlines and caused the 2015 historic recusal of the district attorney plus his entire staff from the area’s worst mass killing prosecution, People v. Scott Dekraai. 

Justices at the California Court of Appeal, where the lawsuit is lodged, understand County Counsel’s habitual courthouse manure spewing. In 2016, they issued a blistering finding not only of systemic corruption inside OCSD but also that local prosecutors ignored the cheating or helped keep it hidden from public consumption. They called the situation “dire.”

In its 68-page complaint, the ACLU team of attorneys asserts that “none” of Sanders’ concerns justified prematurely ending the case.

“In holding that plaintiffs’ lacked standing as taxpayers and in the public interest, the Superior Court told Orange County residents that they are entirely unable to challenge the defendants’ unconstitutional and illegal actions,” they wrote. “The court should be reversed. . . . All of [OCSD’s] constitutional and statutory violations involved in the Informant Program constitute waste and illegal expenditures of taxpayer funds.”

The lawsuit details OCSD misconduct and claims it’s ongoing, citing the refusal to obey discovery obligations in nearly 150 recent cases involving deputies who worked in the agency’s Special Handling Unit, the one that conspired with snitches, some of whom were paid cash, to trample the right of pre-trial defendant inmates not to be questioned once they’ve been arraigned and have legal representation. 

The ACLU reasoned, “Permitting [OCSD and OCDA] to cloak illegal activity under the guise of ‘discretion’ would eviscerate the plain text, intent and courts’ historically liberal interpretation of [law] as a broad remedy for government misconduct.”

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