January 16, 2014
City News Service
Los Angeles County spent $43 million on lawsuits involving the sheriff's department last year, accounting for nearly half the county’s total litigation costs, it was reported recently. The county’s overall spending on lawsuits was down from $115 million in 2012 to $89 million in the 2013 fiscal year, according to a report by the county’s attorneys to the Board of Supervisors, the Los Angeles Times reported. The total includes settlements, judgments and legal fees for the county’s own lawyers and outside law firms.
But costs for the sheriff’s department rose, driven primarily by settlements and trial judgments in excessive force cases, according to The Times. According to figures provided by county Supervisor Gloria Molina’s office, separate from the litigation report, excessive force cases cost the county $20 million last year, up $7 million from the year before. The sheriff’s department accounted for $37 million in litigation costs in 2012, county litigation cost manager Steve Estabrook said, making up about one-third of countywide lawsuit expenditures for that year.
The department has been under scrutiny over allegations of widespread abuse of jail inmates and misconduct. Last month, federal authorities announced criminal charges against 18 current and former deputies and supervisors. On January 7, Sheriff Lee Baca announced he would drop his reelection bid and retire at the end of the month.