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Cop Blocked: SCOTUS Lets 9th Cir. Qualified Immunity Ruling Stand

By Robyn Hagan Cain on May 03, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Los Angeles inmate Dion Starr can proceed with his deliberate indifference claim against Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy Baca. The Supreme Court declined to take up Sheriff Baca's qualified immunity case on Monday.

Starr claims that he was attacked by Latino gang members and a deputy during a 2006 attack at Los Angeles' Men's Central Jail, reports the Los Angeles Times.

According to Starr's lawsuit, a group of inmates gathered at his cell door and threatened to inflict physical harm on him. Instead of protecting Starr, a deputy opened the cell gate and allowed the group to enter. The inmates stabbed star 23 times.

After the attackers left, several deputies went to Starr. He claims that one of the deputies started yelling racial epithets and kicking his face, nose, and body, while the other deputies stood by and watched.

Starr sued Sheriff Baca as well as the deputies directly involved in the attack. In his claim against Sheriff Baca, Starr alleges Baca is liable in his individual capacity because he knew or should have known about the dangers in the Los Angeles County Jail, and that he was deliberately indifferent to those dangers.

Sheriff Baca responded that he was protected by qualified immunity. Last year, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, finding that Starr sufficiently alleged a supervisory liability claim of deliberate indifference against Sheriff Baca.

Los Angeles attorney Timothy Coates urged the Supreme Court to toss the claim against Baca, reports the L.A. Times. "If you are the head of an agency, you are a big target, and you can get dragged into lots of lawsuits," he said.

The Supreme Court, however, wasn't persuaded. (Perhaps they're just tired of the persistent problems plaguing California prisons?)

Sheriff Baca can't use qualified immunity to avoid this deliberate indifference lawsuit, but it doesn't mean that Dion Starr will win. Who do you think will prevail in court?

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