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L.A. County sued for not disclosing spending on sheriff's lawsuits

October 31, 2013|By Abby Sewell
  • Inmates walk in a tight line to their cell blocks at the L.A. County Jail in September 2013.
Inmates walk in a tight line to their cell blocks at the L.A. County Jail in… (Gina Ferazzi )

A local resident and the American Civil Liberties Union are suing Los Angeles County for refusing to disclose how much it has spent defending lawsuits against the county sheriff's department.

The ACLU and Eric Preven -- a local resident who frequently scrutinizes county business -- requested copies of invoices from law firms showing charges for fighting lawsuits alleging abuse of inmates in county jails. They also seek contracts with consultants hired to oversee the implementation of recommendations made by a citizens' commission to reduce jail violence.

According to a complaint filed Thursday, the county denied the requests, citing a California Public Records Act exemption for material that covers dealings between a client and their lawyer.

The ACLU argued that the amount billed is not protected by such an attorney-client privilege, and that protected information about the work done by the lawyers could be redacted from the documents.  

In a lawsuit filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court against the county Board of Supervisors and the office of County Counsel, the ACLU and Preven asked for a court order forcing the release of the documents. They argued that the public has an interest in knowing how much the county spent fighting lawsuits that could have been settled.

"Given the issues raised by the allegations in these complaints and the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for the alleged use of scorched earth litigation tactics, the public has a right and interest in ensuring the transparent and efficient use of taxpayer money," the lawsuit said.

A representative of the executive office for the Board of Supervisors did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


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Twitter: @sewella

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