Court makes it easier to sue law enforcement in California

June 25, 2023


For decades, a lower court precedent protected law enforcement in California from civil lawsuits based on misconduct committed during an investigation, but that has now changed.

On Thursday, the California Supreme Court reiterated the lawsuit immunity limits for deputies and officers committing wrongdoing while on the job. The justices ruled unanimously that law enforcement can be sued for their misconduct during an investigation.

“While other provisions of the Government Claims Act may confer immunity for certain investigatory actions, section 821.6 does not broadly immunize police officers or other public employees for any and all harmful actions they may take in the course of investigating crime,” Associate Justice Leondra Kruger wrote in the courts’ decisions.

The court overturned a lower-court ruling that determined a widow could not sue Riverside County after deputies left her husband’s body, with his genitals exposed, in the open for eight hours.

In 2017, a neighbor shot and killed José Leon. After deputies arrived at the scene, the shooter continued firing shots. Deputies dragged the victim’s body behind their SUV, causing his pants to fall down, where they left him exposed into the evening hours.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

What will this do to make California safer for its residents?… answer nothing… so why do this….

I think this decision is a conflict of interest. I read, “the Court makes is easier to have taxpayer liabilities fund their industry”. Interagency funding is very common, an example would be: the Regional Water Quality Control Board fining to the City for exceeding the water quality threshold of the sewage treatment plant water discharge, the City pays the fine and the ratepayers pay the operating costs. This circle of funding takes away from the benefit of government, funding infrastructure improvements like road surfaces, a big expense that is easy to defer.

Way too often I have witnessed police officers breaking the law. In one situation, I witnessed a former chief of police in Arroyo Grande break the law, and when I called him on it his response was “so sue me” he said, with a laugh, knowing the odds would be stacked in his favor.

When police officers break the law it totally degrades our community. Unfortunately, they do it too often with no serious ramifications. I totally support good police officers, but too often even the good ones look the other way when they’re call leagues, lie, cheat, and steal.

LEO’s should be held to a higher standard than the general public and are expected to know and respect our rights guaranteed under the constitution. If they do not or will not, they should be relieved of their duties permanently.

I see a future where no one wants to work in law enforcement

Only in California…

I’m curious. Should the Police have called a “time out” during the gunfight, so the bad guys could wait until the good guys called the Fire Dept. to determined that Mr. Leon was actually dead, and then put pants on the dead guy before calling “game on” and continuing the gunfight?

Or, how about, don’t disturb a crime scene?

Police do have qualified immunity when they conduct themselves according to department policy and law. You already can sue the behooey out of them, and the city, should they act in an unlawful manner.

Sorry Messkit, but your last paragraph is absolutely untrue. The defense of qualified immunity can usually only be penetrated if the victim can cite a judgement in a case nearly identical to their own. The law for everyone else means nothing to the determination of LEO acting “in an unlawful manner.” Its protection is only very rarely denied to LEO. Originally it was intended to protect LEO so that they could act quickly without concern for the lawlessness of their actions. However, now another problem with it has arisen. In some cases, it is now being allowed as a defense for other civil servants who commit unlawful acts even when there is NO issue of time to consider their actions. We need to get rid of or at least severely limit qualified immunity. It has literally become a license to kill for LEOs.

Heaven forbid LEO’S are subject to the same laws as us little people.

Great, the lawyer full employment act! We do no need to further hamstring those in blue. Tell me what obligation the police have to pull up some scumbags pants.

Try reading the article first Mitch. This guy was the victim.

Mr. Yan, I was about to point this out to Mitch, also, but on deeper thought realized that Mitch may have meant just what he wrote. Just sayin…