A federal judge on Friday approved a $14 million settlement in a class action lawsuit over the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s past practice of holding people in jail beyond their release dates in due to requests from immigration authorities.
The settlement caps a nearly decade-long court battle for people who have been unlawfully detained in Los Angeles County jails for days or months due to ongoing investigations by Immigration and customs.
Only part of the settlement — $3.7 million — will go to the victims. While almost 20,000 people were entitled to assistance because they had been illegally detained between October 2010 and June 2014, only 1,166 people filed complaints.
“It was very, very difficult to reach people, locate people and get them to file claims,” said Lindsay Battles, an attorney representing the plaintiffs. “For this particular case, we faced the added challenge that many people had been transferred to ICE and then deported.”
Qualified applicants will receive a maximum of $1,000 for each day of detention beyond their release date. Payments range from $250 to $25,000 per person.
An additional $4.2 million of the settlement will go to plaintiffs’ attorneys, which the judge said is “justified because plaintiffs’ attorneys achieved meaningful results for the class and undertook lengthy litigation.” and risky”.
The remaining money, about $5.3 million, will fund immigration attorneys, paralegals and others to defend cases involving immigrants at the LA County Offices of the Public Defender and the Alternate Public Defender.
“The best way to protect county residents from unjust evictions and keep families together is to make sure everyone has an attorney to defend them,” said Jennie Pasquarella, director of immigrant rights for the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, in a statement.
The lawsuit was brought against former sheriff Lee Baca in 2012 by British filmmaker Duncan Roy, who said he spent nearly three months in LA County jails without the ability to post bail after his arrest in 2011. Roy said the sheriff’s department denied his requests to post $35,000 bond because immigration officials requested that he be detained.
A federal judge ruled in 2018 that holding detainees past their release date in immigration civilian custody violates their 4th Amendment rights.
The policies and practices of the Sheriff’s Department have changed significantly since the complaint was filed.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva ended the Sheriff’s Department’s participation in a federal grant program that required the department to share information with federal agencies about detainees who were illegally in the country.
In April 2020, it imposed a moratorium on the transfer of detainees to immigration authorities due to concerns about conditions in migrant detention centers during the COVID-19 pandemic. He made the moratorium permanent later that year, prohibiting detainee transfers unless the federal immigration agency obtained a court warrant.