Our Current Docket

Six times a year, the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties publishes its most recent docket. Our current docket, dated November 2016, contains 18 open cases in which we are directly involved, and 9 in which we prepared friend-of-the-court briefs. Our most recent four dockets can be found at the end of this page. Major cases have a link to a more detailed page. New developments in a case appear in bold.



In re Arreola (amicus) – This case involves an immigration judge’s authority to terminate removal proceedings against an individual who is incompetent to participate. Termination would end the case and permit the individual to be released from detention, though the government could restart proceedings if the individual later became competent. In this case, however, the immigration judge believed he only had power to “administratively close” rather than terminate the case. Administrative closure takes the case off the court’s calendar but leaves it in limbo. This practice has often left unrepresented detainees with severe mental illness languishing in detention, because there is no mechanism that requires judges or officials to review the case periodically. That is precisely the problem which prompted the Franco-Gonzalez case discussed below. To protect and implement the victory in that case, we joined an amicus brief to the Board of Immigration Appeals arguing that the Immigration and Nationality Act authorizes immigration judges to terminate removal proceedings in these circumstances, especially in light of rights guaranteed by the Rehabilitation Act and Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. On July 22, 2016, the BIA remanded the case to the Immigration Court with an order to pursue additional administrative safeguards to ensure that the removal proceedings can be conducted fairly. The BIA did not reach our argument that the Immigration Court has authority to terminate proceedings. The case is now closed, though we will monitor it to determine if the problem recurs and warrants further advocacy.

ACLU v. Department of Homeland Security (direct) (roving patrols FOIA) – The incidence of civil rights violations associated with Border Patrol’s interior enforcement operations, which include interior checkpoints and “roving patrol” stops, is a matter of pressing public concern.  There is little publicly available information regarding the extent or impact of Border Patrol’s roving patrol operations or its agents’ respect for limitations on their authority. In Southern California, Border Patrol agents operate in a number of metropolitan and rural areas at considerable distance from the U.S.-Mexico border. In July 2014, the ACLU of San Diego’s Border Litigation Project, along with the ACLU of Southern California and UCI Law’s Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to both DHS and CBP seeking records related to “roving patrol” operations in the San Diego and El Centro Sectors. When the agencies failed to respond as required, we filed a lawsuit in the Central District of California in February 2015. After negotiations and document production that narrowed the issues, the government moved for summary judgment. On October 7, 2016, we filed a brief opposing that motion and supporting our cross motion for summary judgment, arguing that the government conducted an inadequate search and unlawfully withheld various documents. Our next brief is due December 23, 2016.

ACLU of Arizona & ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties v. Department of Homeland Security (direct) (reports of child abuse FOIA) –For years, advocates have documented persistent allegations of child abuse by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials, in particular Border Patrol agents. In June 2014, at the height of a surge of unaccompanied children entering the United States, the ACLU filed a complaint with DHS documenting 116 allegations of child abuse. Although high-ranking officials initially conceded that there were problems, DHS later shut down all investigations. In December 2014, the ACLU Border Litigation Project filed a Freedom of Information Act request with DHS for any records pertaining to allegations of child abuse or mistreatment. DHS failed to timely respond. With Cooley LLP and the ACLU of Arizona, we filed a federal lawsuit in Arizona to compel DHS to search for and turn over those documents. We have received some records, but thousands of pages remain unreleased. By orders issued in October 2015, the court ordered DHS to produce responsive documents and provide an index justifying any withholding by May 27, 2016, after which the parties shall complete summary judgment briefing by September 2, 2016. On July 8, 2016, the defendants moved to stay the case and modify the briefing schedule due to their alleged workload. By order issued September 2, 2016, the court found “the current document production rate and documents produced wholly insufficient, particularly given the urgency of Plaintiffs’ request.” Following a hearing on October 3, 2016, the court adopted a schedule requiring the government to produce justifications for withholding any responsive documents by October 31, 2016, after which the government must file any summary judgment motion by December 12, 2016, and we must file any opposition and cross motion by February 6, 2017.

Southwest Key Programs v. City of Escondido (direct) – Since 2011, hundreds of thousands of unaccompanied children have entered the United States. Most come from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, seeking refuge from violence and persecution. The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), part of the Department of Health and Human Services, is responsible for the care of unaccompanied children while their immigration cases are pending. ORR places children with contractors such as Southwest Key Programs, which provide housing and services until children can be placed with a parent or close relative. Southwest Key operates immigrant youth housing in Lemon Grove and El Cajon and received federal approval to expand its operations in San Diego County. It found suitable locations in Escondido. Despite undisputed evidence that Southwest Key would bring millions of dollars and over 100 jobs into the local economy without adverse impact, it ran into a firestorm of opposition based on xenophobia, hostility, and bias. As a result, the City Council rejected Southwest Key’s proposal. On May 18, 2015, joined by Brancart & Brancart, Cooley LLP, and Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, we filed a federal action charging Escondido with unlawful discrimination. After discovery closed on August 26, 2016, the City moved for summary judgment, which we opposed on October 3. The court originally scheduled argument on the summary judgment motion for October 31 but postponed it to provide for supplemental briefing. On November 3, the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice filed a brief in support of our position that the group homes provided by Southwest Key for unaccompanied children are “dwellings” covered by the Fair Housing Act.

Rodriguez v. Swartz (direct)In October 2012, Border Patrol agent Lonnie Swartz shot and killed J.A., a minor, while he was walking peacefully down a street, unarmed, in Nogales, Mexico, just across the border from the United States. On July 29, 2014, the ACLU Border Litigation Project and the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, along with Morrison & Foerster LLP, Parra Law Offices, and Roberto Montiel Law Offices, filed suit in federal court to challenge the shooting on behalf of J.A.’s mother, Araceli Rodriguez, both on her own behalf and as personal representative of J.A.’s estate. Swartz moved to dismiss the case on the ground that the Constitution does not apply to his actions. On July 9, 2015, the district court issued an order rejecting that contention. Swartz filed an immediate appeal on that issue with the Ninth Circuit, which put the case on hold in the trial court. The Ninth Circuit heard oral argument October 21, 2016.

Olivas v. Whitford (direct) – On June 12, 2014, we filed a complaint in federal court challenging the Kafkaesque exile of Oscar Olivas, who has been barred from returning to the United States since 2011. As a result, Mr. Olivas remains in Mexico where he cannot work to support his family and where his young U.S. citizen daughter does not receive the special education she requires. The petition states that federal officers coerced Mr. Olivas’s mother into signing a false confession that he had been born in Mexico rather than Los Angeles, as the government previously accepted, and details his fruitless efforts to obtain a fair hearing proving his citizenship so that he can bring his family back to the United States. In November 2015, the court held a bench trial to determine whether Mr. Olivas shall be allowed to return to the United States as a citizen. On June 28, 2016, the court issued an order that found we did not prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Mr. Olivas is a United States citizen. We have appealed that order on the ground that the court erred in not requiring the government to disprove Mr. Olivas’s citizenship by clear and convincing evidence, given its previous administrative findings that he was a citizen on which he justifiably relied.

United States v. Salazar-Garcia (amicus) – In a federal criminal case pending in San Diego, the court authorized release on bond for Alejandro Salazar-Garcia. Immigration and Customs Enforcement immediately took custody of Mr. Salazar-Garcia, and four months later, announced that it intended to remove him to Mexico, prompting the U.S. Attorney’s Office to move to revoke his bond. The district court then revoked bond and ordered him remanded to criminal custody, based solely on the allegedly imminent risk of his removal. Together with the national ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers’ Guild, and the UCLA School of Law Criminal Defense Clinic, we joined an amicus brief urging the Ninth Circuit to hold that federal law does not allow denial or revocation of bail solely based on potential removal and that federal regulations provide means for ensuring that a noncitizen defendant is not removed from the country while a criminal case is pending.

Lopez-Venegas v. Johnson (direct) – On June 4, 2013, together with the ACLU of Southern California, the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, and Cooley LLP, we filed suit claiming that Border Patrol agents and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers routinely used misinformation, deception, and coercion to convince people to sign their own expulsion orders under guise of “voluntary return.” Officers pressured Mexican nationals with deep roots in the United States into forfeiting their right to a fair hearing and a chance to live here lawfully by misleading them about the severe consequences of “voluntary return,” such as prolonged bars against re-entering the United States. After motions, discovery, and negotiations, the parties executed a comprehensive settlement, including a landmark agreement to allow the individual plaintiffs and a class of qualified persons to return to the United States. The agreement also requires the government to undertake reforms to the way it implements voluntary return. On February 25, 2015, the court approved the settlement, triggering a 120-day notice period, followed by a 180-day period to submit applications for return. By the close of the application period, we screened 3,597 individuals for class membership and submitted 116 applications. The government granted 79 applications and denied 37. Now that the application period has closed, we have updated the bilingual website http://www.misalidavoluntaria.org/ to inform people of their rights in the “voluntary return” processAfter extensive negotiations, we reached agreement to extend the reform provisions of the settlement for an additional six months, until February 28, 2017, to compensate for the government’s initial noncompliance with those provisions. We later submitted appeals on behalf of 10 individuals who were denied re-entry. The government agreed to allow six into the United States. The remaining four do not qualify for re-entry.


Police Practices

Jones v. Hernandez (direct) – In August 2014, U.S. Border Patrol agents assaulted U.S. citizen and former Navy SEAL Alton Jones while he was visiting Border Field State Park with his wife and young child. Mr. Jones was taking a jog through the park when he was surrounded and tackled by Border Patrol agents, who arrested and held him overnight without charge, explanation, or access to a lawyer. On August 8, 2016, we filed suit in federal court alleging violations of Mr. Jones’ Fourth Amendment rights. That same day, we submitted a Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”) administrative claim alleging various torts. On October 20, 2016, the government denied our administrative claim. We intend to amend the complaint as soon as possible to add tort claims against the United States under the FTCA while we continue to pursue service of process on the individual agents, who have not yet been identified.

United States v. Sanchez Gomez (amicus) – At the request of United States Marshals, the federal court in San Diego adopted a blanket policy to place all criminal defendants in full shackle restraints at all non-jury proceedings except guilty pleas and sentencing hearings. The federal defenders challenged that policy, and a Ninth Circuit panel held in August 2015 that the policy was not sufficiently justified. However, on August 5, 2016, the full court granted rehearing and vacated the panel decision. In support of the federal defenders, we filed an amicus brief discussing the settlement reached in an ACLU case that challenged blanket shackling of immigration detainees in San Francisco, showing that such a policy is unnecessary. The amicus brief was written by Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, P.C., which co-counseled the immigration shackling case.

Orr v. Plumb (amicus) – In a federal case arising from a traffic stop by a California Highway Patrol officer, the jury found the officer unlawfully arrested and used excessive force on the plaintiff and awarded the plaintiff $125,000 in damages. When the plaintiff sought attorney fees as provided by federal law, the court reduced the fees on the ground that the verdict, for which the officer was indemnified, would not deter future violations by other officers. Plaintiff appealed the fee award to the Ninth Circuit. With the National Police Accountability Project, the California ACLU affiliates filed an amicus brief arguing that the district court’s decision threatened to undermine civil rights enforcement by disregarding binding precedent on the deterrent effect of both damages verdicts and fee awards to counsel who prevail in holding public officials accountable for constitutional violations.

People v. Macabeo (amicus) –This case involves a search and seizure issue impacting millions of people: whether the police can search a person “incident to arrest” because an arrest is hypothetically possible, regardless of whether any arrest in fact occurs or is imminent. The Court of Appeal held that police were authorized to search a bicyclist detained for a traffic infraction merely because the infraction created probable cause for arrest, even though police had not in fact arrested or intended to arrest the bicyclist until they discovered evidence of another crime during the search. If left standing, the Court of Appeal decision would untether the “search incident to arrest” rule from its justifications and allow warrantless searches of virtually anyone stopped for a traffic infraction. On November 4, 2014, the California ACLU affiliates submitted a letter to the California Supreme Court as amicus curiae urging the court to grant review, which it did on November 25. We filed an amicus brief on the merits May 4, 2015. The case was argued on May 4, 2016. On July 29, 2016, the court called for supplemental briefing, which is now complete. We are waiting for the court’s decision. 

Rights of the Accused

Harris v. Superior Court (new case) (amicus) – The passage of Proposition 47 in 2014 reduced certain non-serious felonies to misdemeanors in the interest of reducing prison and jail overcrowding, containing correctional spending, and investing in programs such as mental health services, truancy prevention, and victim services.  Proposition 47 allowed eligible defendants to petition for reclassification of previous felony convictions to misdemeanors, with appropriate resentencing. The Court of Appeal held that if a person with an eligible plea bargain conviction avails herself of the right under Proposition 47 to be resentenced, the court may vacate the plea bargain and reinstate the original felony charges. The court then held that the defendant may face a sentence on the reinstated charges that exceeds the term provided for under the plea agreement. After the California Supreme Court agreed to review that decision, the California ACLU affiliates filed an amicus brief arguing that the decision should be reversed because it violates the text and purpose of Proposition 47, as well as the principle that parties to a plea agreement are deemed to have contemplated within their bargain the possibility of future, retroactive changes in the law. The case was argumed October 5, 2016. A decision expected within 90 days afterward. 

Phillips v. State of California (direct) – Because public defenders do not receive the resources necessary to represent their clients, thousands of Fresno residents must navigate the criminal justice system without the minimum legal representation guaranteed by the Constitution. In Fresno County, public defender attorneys are forced to shoulder up to four times the recommended number of clients, leaving so little time that attorneys have little if any meaningful communications with clients. The failing public defense system violates the Constitution and perpetuates racial inequalities that plague the criminal justice system. In a case spearheaded by the ACLU of Northern California, we joined the other California affiliates and the national ACLU to file suit against the State of California, Governor Brown, and County of Fresno seeking an overhaul of the County’s indigent defense system, with state participation. On March 12, 2016, the court denied motions by the state and county to dismiss the case. The state filed a petition for writ of mandamus seeking review of the trial court’s decision, but the Court of Appeal summarily denied the petition. The case is proceeding through discovery.

Privacy Rights

In re Ricardo P. (new case) (amicus) – The California Supreme Court granted review on the question whether juvenile courts can impose an electronics search condition requiring minors on probation to submit to warrantless search of their electronic devices and provide their passwords in cases unrelated to the use of such devices to commit any crime. With the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the California ACLU affiliates filed an amicus brief arguing that the routine imposition of such conditions unreasonably violates rights to privacy and expression and undermines juvenile rehabilitation.


ACLU of Northern California et al. v. Padilla (new case) (direct) – California law currently prohibits voters from showing their completed ballots to others. The legislature passed and the governor signed a bill, AB 1494, to permit voters to voluntarily disclose how they voted, by photographing their ballots or otherwise, but AB 1494 does not go into effect until January 1, 2017. The California Secretary of State issued a memorandum to county election officials on October 12, 2016 advising that the current ban remains in effect for the November 2016 election. After unsuccessful negotiations with the Secretary of State’s office, the California ACLU affiliates filed suit on October 31, arguing that the ban violates the First Amendment. We sought a temporary restraining order against enforcement of the ban during the impending election. On November 2, 2016, the court heard argument and denied the temporary restraining order. Given that the election is less than a week away and the ban will expire January 1, we have decided not to appeal. The case is now closed.

Department of Motor Vehicles (direct) – The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is violating the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) by failing to offer California drivers and identification card holders the opportunity to register to vote. On February 5, 2015, the ACLU of California Voting Rights Project, joined by co-counsel at Demos, Project Vote, and the law firm of Morrison & Foerster, sent a pre-litigation notice of noncompliance to the California Secretary of State on behalf of the League of Women Voters of California, the Association of Californians for Community Empowerment, California Common Cause, the National Council of La Raza, and three individuals deprived of voter registration opportunities. We recently signed a memorandum of understanding with DMV to resolve the concerns identified in our letter, and we will monitor DMV’s compliance with the agreement to ensure full compliance with its NVRA obligations.


LGBT Rights

e3 Civic High School (direct) – In In late 2014, the executive director of e3 Civic High School, a charter school located in the San Diego Central Library building, unlawfully interfered with the establishment of a gay-straight alliance club known as Spectrum, demonstrating her bias against LGBT students and violating students’ rights to freedom of speech. After we wrote to the school demanding correction of the problem, we were assured the school would comply with the Equal Access Act and other relevant law. During March 2015, we again wrote to the school to object to the executive director’s interference with Spectrum’s operation and right to freedom of speech, and we were again assured the school would comply. In October 2015, the executive director unlawfully denied admission to a transgender student, in clear violation of state law prohibiting charter schools from discriminating based on gender, gender identity, or gender expression. By letter sent April 22, 2016, with our co-counsel Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, we demanded an immediate response from the school’s board of directors to this latest violation by the executive director, with litigation likely to follow if the response is not appropriate and sufficient. Through counsel, e3 denied any wrongdoing, but we are continuing to investigate the case by demanding documents from the school to substantiate its alleged defenses. Because the school has failed to produce documents as required by its own charter, which subjects the school to the California Public Records Act, we sent a letter to the school demanding that it immediately produce the documents or face litigation to compel disclosure.

Freedom of Expression and Information

Subpoena of Deborah Stice (new case) (direct) – Dr. Paul Aisen previously worked for the University of California, San Diego (“UCSD”) as director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study (“ADCS”). In June 2015, Dr. Aisen resigned from UCSD and began working for the University of Southern California as director of a new Alzheimer’s Therapeutic Research Institute. In July 2015, the University of California sued USC and Dr. Aisen, alleging they acted illegally in seeking to transfer the ADCS and related data to USC. In turn, USC and Dr. Aisen countersued, alleging defamation of Dr. Aisen and other claims. On October 2, 2016, USC and Dr. Aisen served a subpoena on Deborah Stice, a former UCSD employee and administrator for the ADCS, who operated a blog called “ADCS in the News” to collect and distribute information related to the litigation and provide a forum for commentary. The subpoena demanded documents and communications related to the blog, including the identities of anonymous sources and commenters, as well as information arising from Ms. Stice’s former employment that was unrelated to the blog. Representing Ms. Stice, we objected to the subpoena on the ground that information related to the blog is covered by the First Amendment journalist’s privilege. After discussions with opposing counsel, we reached agreement that Ms. Stice may produce documents and testify at deposition regarding information she learned independently of her work on the blog. Her deposition is scheduled for November 18, 2016.

City of Eureka v. Superior Court (new case) (amicus) – In December 2012, a Eureka police officer’s arrest of a minor was captured on video by a patrol car’s dashboard camera. The minor was initially charged with juvenile offenses, but the charges were dropped. The officer was then 8 charged with assault and falsifying a police report, but those charges were dismissed. A reporter sought a copy of the video from the county probation department. The minor agreed to disclosure of the video. The trial court held that the video was not a confidential police personnel record and ordered disclosure subject to measures protecting the minor’s identity. The Court of Appeals affirmed, and the California ACLU affiliates submitted an amicus letter in the California Supreme Court opposing depublication of the decision. By order issued October 26, 2016, the California Supreme Court denied the depublication request and declined to review the case. The case is now closed.

The Koala v. Khosla (direct) – In the University of California system, campuses collect student activity fees for the purpose of funding a wide range of speech by student organizations. Student governments exercise authority delegated by the chancellor of each campus to allocate funds to student organizations. The organizations hold events, host speeches, or publish in print and online. The Koala, a student publication at UCSD known for outrageous satire, has received funding through that process, as have numerous other student organizations, including the publishers of other student media. After The Koala recently published a satire of safe spaces and trigger warnings containing numerous racial epithets and stereotypes, the UCSD administration condemned it, as it had a right to do. The student government then terminated funding for the publication of all student media. That decision violated the First Amendment because it singled out the press and it was motivated by opposition to The Koala’s viewpoint, though it resulted in collateral damage to all student media. By letter sent December 1, 2015, we demanded immediate reinstatement of student media funding in accord with the First Amendment and university policy. After negotiations were unsuccessful, we filed a complaint and motion for preliminary injunction on May 31, 2016, seeking reinstatement of student media funding. Our co-counsel is Ryan Darby, a local attorney and UCSD graduate. On November 1, 2016, the court issued a decision denying our motion for preliminary injunction and granting the university’s motion to dismiss with leave to amend the complaint within 14 days. We intend to amend the complaint and pursue any appellate review as necessary.

Jacobson v. Department of Homeland Security (direct) – As part of the federal government’s ongoing militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border region, the Border Patrol runs an aggressive program of checkpoints throughout the Southwest. In the rural community of Arivaca, Arizona, community members launched a checkpoint monitoring campaign to observe, photograph, and video record the actions of Border Patrol agents at a nearby checkpoint. The campaign arises from longstanding concerns about harassment and civil rights violations committed by Border Patrol agents at the checkpoint. Border Patrol responded by harassing and retaliating against the residents and forcing them to observe from such a large distance that they cannot effectively monitor checkpoint operations. As part of our Border Litigation Project, together with the ACLU of Arizona and the law firm of Covington & Burling LLP, we filed suit in Arizona federal court on November 20, 2014, to hold Border Patrol accountable for violating the First Amendment. After extensive briefing and argument, the court denied our motion for a preliminary injunction on September 14, 2015. The parties then briefed the government’s motion to dismiss, which was filed November 2, 2015. After hearing argument on September 22, 2016, the court issued an order September 30, 2016 dismissing our case. We plan to appeal.

Gill v. U.S. Department of Justice (direct) – On July 10, 2014, the ACLU of California, along with Bingham McCutchen LLP and Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus, filed a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief in federal court alleging that the federal government’s “suspicious activity reporting” program targets constitutionally protected conduct and encourages racial and religious profiling. Plaintiffs are five United States citizens – two photographers, one white man who is a devout Muslim, and two men of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent. Each plaintiff engaged in innocuous and lawful activity, some of which was protected by the First Amendment, yet all were reported as having engaged in “suspicious activities.” As a consequence, reports about them were entered into counterterrorism databases, and they were subjected to unwelcome and unwarranted law enforcement scrutiny and interrogation. The court denied the government’s motion to dismiss the case. In spring 2016, the government finally produced the administrative record. The parties have briefed the government’s motion for summary judgment, which will be argued December 8, 2016.

City of San Jose v. Superior Court (amicus) – For several years, California courts have been grappling with the question whether electronic communications relating to official business are covered by the California Public Records Act (CPRA) when they are sent or received on non-official devices or accounts. To allow governments to circumvent CPRA obligations simply by routing official business through non-official devices or accounts would gut public disclosure law by curtailing if not eliminating disclosure of informal emails and other communications that provide critical insights into governmental operations beyond the often sanitized contents of formal reports. Yet that is exactly what the Sixth District Court of Appeal did in holding that such communications are not “public records” as defined in the CPRA. Together with Electronic Frontier Foundation, the California ACLU affiliates submitted an amicus curiae letter to the California Supreme Court on May 23, 2014, in support of granting review of that decision, which the court did on June 25, 2014. The parties have briefed the case, and the ACLU’s amicus brief on the merits was filed August 11, 2015. The case has been scheduled for argument December 7, 2016, with a decision expected within 90 days afterward.

Askins v. Department of Homeland Security (direct) – This case is about protecting the First Amendment right to hold government accountable. Ray Askins is an activist concerned about environmental issues at the border. While standing on a public street in Calexico, he took photographs of the port of entry building to illustrate a presentation he planned to give on vehicle emissions at ports of entry. Christian Ramirez is a human rights activist who photographed male Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents frisking female travelers as they were preparing to leave the United States at San Ysidro. In both cases, border enforcement agents detained, harassed, and threatened them, temporarily confiscated their cameras, and deleted their photographs. Together with Morrison & Foerster, we filed an action claiming that CBP violated the Constitution by prohibiting all photography at ports of entry. The court eventually held that CBP’s policy does not violate the First Amendment but gave us permission to amend the complaint. After conducting further investigation, we filed an amended complaint on November 5, 2015, updating the facts to reflect new construction at Calexico and San Ysidro and refining our claims. After the district court dismissed the case, we appealed on May 17, 2016. Our appellate brief was filed September 26, 2016, and two amicus briefs in our favor were filed October 3. The government’s brief is due November 25, 2016, with our reply brief due December 9.

Education Rights

Community Coalition of South Los Angeles v. Los Angeles Unified School District (direct) – The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), enacted on July 1, 2013, is California’s new education finance system. It is expected to increase state education funding by $18 billion over the course of eight years and is intended to direct a greater portion of the state’s education funding to high-need students than the former system. ACLU supported the reform and has been actively involved in shaping the regulations adopted by the State Board of Education (SBE) to implement LCFF. The mechanism for distributing funding to districts was overhauled, replacing “categorical programs” that restricted use of certain funds to specified uses and establishing a single per-pupil funding formula for every district instead of the former mosaic of different formulas used to derive different “revenue limit” apportionments for each district. The new formula includes a “supplemental grant” (20 percent over the base amount) for high-need students who are English learners, low-income students, or foster youth, plus a “concentration grant” for each such student when the overall percentage of their enrollment in the district equals or exceeds 55 percent. Each district must adopt a Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) specifying how LCFF funds will be used. This test case, filed July 1, 2015, by ACLU of Southern California and joined by the other California affiliates, challenges the LCAP adopted by Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) because its method of calculation diverts funds from “supplemental” and “concentration” grants designated for high-need students to “base” funding that can be used for any purpose. If allowed to stand, the Los Angeles LCAP would become a model for how other districts could divert funds from high-need students. The defendants argued that we improperly failed to exhaust administrative remedies. To avoid litigating that issue needlessly, we filed an administrative complaint, which resulted in a decision in our favor by the California Department of Education on May 27, 2016. The department ordered LAUSD to amend its LCAP and provide hundreds of millions of dollars in services to high-need students. LAUSD agreed to abide by the decision and amend its 2017-18 LCAP. We are in negotiations to determine how much of the lost expenditures from the 2014-15, 2015-16, and 2016-17 school years LAUSD will provide to high need students.

Privacy Rights

Lewis v. Superior Court (amicus) – While investigating a physician, the California Medical Board obtained his patients’ controlled substance prescription records from the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES), a statutory program that does not require a warrant or subpoena based on individualized suspicion. The investigation ultimately found only minor recordkeeping violations. On review, the Court of Appeal rejected the physician’s claim that the statute violates the privacy rights of patients, holding that CURES contains sufficient safeguards to prevent unwarranted disclosure and access. After the California Supreme Court granted review, we joined the California ACLU affiliates in an amicus brief arguing that the physician has standing to assert his patients’ privacy rights and the warrantless search of prescription records violates the state and federal constitutions.

Reproductive Justice

Chamorro v. Dignity Health (direct) – Rebecca Chamorro lives in Redding and is a patient at Dignity Health’s Mercy Medical Center, the only hospital in Redding with a labor and delivery ward. She decided with her doctor that she would get a tubal ligation during her scheduled C-section in late January 2016. But the hospital refused her doctor’s request to perform the procedure, citing religious directives written by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that classify sterilization procedures as “intrinsically evil.” For Chamorro, there are no hospitals within a 70-mile radius that have birthing facilities and do not follow these directives. After Dignity Health refused to comply with a letter demanding that it authorize the tubal ligation, we joined the California ACLU affiliates, the national ACLU, and Covington & Burling in filing suit on behalf of Ms. Chamorro and Physicians for Reproductive Health, arguing that to withhold pregnancy-related care, including but not limited to tubal ligation, for other than medical reasons violates California law. The case includes an emergency motion asking the court to prevent Dignity Health from using the religious directives to interfere with Chamorro’s care so that her doctor can perform the procedure during her scheduled delivery. The court denied the emergency motion, but the case is continuing through the normal litigation process. An amended complaint was filed February 29, 2016, after which Dignity Health moved to dismiss our claims. With our agreement, the California Medical Association moved to intervene. By order filed August 1, 2016, the court dismissed all but one of our claims, allowing us to proceed on the claim that Dignity Health is engaging in an unlawful business practice. The court denied the motion to intervene. The case is now in discovery.

Access to courts

Leider v. Lewis (new case) (amicus) – This case is about the California taxpayer standing statute, Code of Civil Procedure section 526a, which authorizes taxpayers to bring actions against local government officials to enjoin unlawful conduct. The statute is an important procedural vehicle for civil liberties cases in state court. The California Supreme Court granted review of a case raising the question whether the statute can be used to enjoin conduct prohibited by criminal as well as civil laws. The California ACLU affiliates filed an amicus brief arguing for a broad construction of the statute to include conduct prohibited by criminal laws.


Armstrong v. Board of Supervisors– In violation of constitutional, statutory and administrative requirements, San Diego County jails were severely overcrowded. Even though a consent decree setting population caps for each facility was adopted in 1988, the County’s only jail for women was still severely overcrowded in 1993, at which point the ACLU initiated contempt hearings. The Court of Appeal affirmed the contempt finding, which remained in effect until 1997. After realignment shifted many prisoners from the state to counties, we are watching the County to make sure it remains in compliance with the decree. 

In the Matter of Overcrowding of Detainees at San Diego County Juvenile Hall  – Immediately after court oversight of conditions at Juvenile Hall ended in 1996, the population at the facility increased to the point that there were eighty more children than beds. In mid-1998, the ACLU contacted the San Diego County Counsel’s office to resolve the crisis without resorting to new litigation. The juvenile court then limited the number of detainees at Juvenile Hall, which has yet to exceed that limit. The ACLU continues to monitor compliance.

Recent Legal Dockets

September 2016 Docket
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March 2016 Docket

The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties fights for individual rights and fundamental freedoms for all through education, litigation, & policy advocacy.