County Approves Proposed Settlement in Gang Injunction Case

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Orange County supervisors on Tuesday approved a proposed settlement related to a controversial case in which the District Attorney’s office was found to have unlawfully restricted the rights of people it accused of being gang members without giving them a chance to show they weren’t in a gang.

The vote on the proposed settlement was 4-1, with supervisors’ Chairman Todd Spitzer opposed.

County spokeswoman Jean Pasco said she couldn’t reveal the contents of the proposed settlement, citing a direction from the county counsel’s office due to confidentiality.

However, the proposal is likely related to how the county and the city of Orange will split $3.35 million in legal costs they were ordered to pay.  Because they lost the case, both agencies are responsible for the legal fees of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.

In a Jan. 21 court filing, the county and city say they “seek to conclude this matter without incurring further litigation expense,” which requires closed sessions before the county Board of Supervisors  and Orange City Council.

“To that end, this matter is set for consideration by the Board of Supervisors on February 3, 2015 and for further consideration by the City Council on February 10, 2015.”

The case, Vasquez v. Rackauckas, centers on a gang injunction against 115 people who the district attorney and Orange police alleged were in the Orange Barrio Cypress gang.

When more than 50 people came to court to assert that they weren’t actually gang members, the district attorney “dismissed them rather than try to prove the allegations,” the ACLU alleged.

But despite being dismissed, the DA and police still ultimately enforced an injunction against them, according to the ACLU.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in November 2013 that District Attorney Tony Rackauckas and the city violated the U.S. Constitution by, among other restrictions, banning suspected gang members from being in public after 10 p.m. without giving them a chance to show that they weren’t actually in a gang.

“The taxpayers of Orange County now get to pick up a multi-million dollar tab for the litigation that ensued from the district attorney’s bad tactical decision,” wrote Circuit Judge Richard Tallman.

It’s unclear how the county and the city will split the costs, and which pot of money the funds will come from.

Orange’s city attorney has previously said there’s generally a level of trust that the district attorney knows the law.

The DA’s office, meanwhile, declined to discuss the case on Tuesday.  Its chief of staff, Susan Kang Schroeder, has previously said the judgment would be paid out of taxpayer funds.

You can reach Nick Gerda at ngerda@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.