Civil Rights Highlights
In 2012, the Office of the Attorney General represented the California Fair Employment and Housing Commission (Commission) in City of Merced v. Fair Employment and Housing Commission. After an administrative hearing, the Commission held that the City of Merced Fire Department wrongfully rejected an applicant for employment as a firefighter due to a perceived disability in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. The City had argued that it did not need to accommodate the applicant because firefighters were required to be 100% able to do all duties without accommodation. The Commission determined that the City's defense that the applicant could not perform his firefighter duties without endangering himself or others was without merit because the applicant could safely perform the job with minor accommodation. In fact, the applicant had been a firefighter with another agency for several years before applying with the City. The City challenged the Commission's decision in the Superior Court, and after losing there, filed an appeal. The City eventually settled the case while the appeal was pending.
In 2008, the Legislature created the California Commission on Disability Access (Commission) to promote disability access in California through dialogue and collaboration with stakeholders including, but not limited to, the disability and business communities as well as all levels of government. The California Commission on Disability Access is a 17-member independent commission consisting of 11 public members and six ex officio nonvoting members. Under Government Code section 8299.01, the Attorney General, or her designee, is an ex officio nonvoting member of the Commission. Since its inception, a member of the Civil Rights Enforcement Section has served and continues to serve on the Commission. In this capacity, our office regularly attends Commission meetings and actively participants in robust discussions on the many ways that access for Californians with disabilities can be improved in both the public and private sectors.
Between 2006 and 2009, the Office of the Attorney General entered into significant settlements with nine different companies that constructed apartment complexes that failed to comply with state and federal accessibility laws. These apartment complexes were located in the cities of Napa, Stockton, Bakersfield, Ventura, Vacaville, Woodland, and Redding. Common allegations in the complaints filed against these companies included failure to design and construct the subject properties so that the public and common use portions of the properties were readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act and failure to design and construct the ground-floor units of the subject properties in accordance with the standards for accessibility provided by California regulations. The settlements in each of these cases required that the companies comply with state and federal design and construction requirements in the construction of any future buildings, correct deficiencies found by the California Attorney General's Office, and pay civil penalties and attorneys' fees and costs.
In 2007, the Office of the Attorney General entered into settlements with Kern and Santa Cruz counties regarding accessibility to polling places, in the actions entitled People v. County of Santa Cruz, et. al. and People v. County of Kern, et. al. Each settlement required the counties to improve the accessibility of their polling sites over a multi-year period by taking measures to locate and select more polling sites that comply with state and federal disability access laws or using temporary accessibility measures such as temporary ramps. The settlements also required the counties to employ a disability access consultant to oversee the obligations of the settlement agreement, and provide additional training on selection and setup of polling sites on election days. The settlements resolved complaints filed by the Attorney General's office after it discovered that polling sites in Kern and Santa Cruz counties had barriers that could make access to the polling sites difficult, hazardous or impossible for voters with disabilities. The settlements remained in effect until March 31, 2011.
In 2007, the Attorney General filed a friend-of-the-court brief in Californians for Disability Rights v. Mervyn's Department Stores, Inc., a case on appeal in the California First Appellate District. The Attorney General's brief was filed in support of Californians for Disability Rights, who sued Mervyn's for maintaining some of its merchandise on movable racks that were placed so closely together that persons who use wheelchairs could not access the merchandise. Asserting that it was a self-service store, Mervyn's also reportedly did not provide store clerk assistance to help access the inaccessible merchandise. After a trial, the court held in favor of Mervyn's finding that the store's placement of the merchandise did not violate the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), California's Unruh Civil Rights Act or California's Disabled Persons Act. The Attorney General's friend-of-the-court brief argued that the trial court erred in applying federal law standards i.e. the ADA, to the two California statutes mentioned above. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court order, and, addressing only the claims predicated on the ADA, held that under federal law, the retailer must remove architectural barriers to access where such removal is "readily achievable" and, if not readily achievable because of great difficulty or expense, must adopt alternative methods for making its merchandise available to individuals with disablities by the provision of customer assistance or other means. The Court of Appeal did not decide the issue regarding the purely state law claims that the Attorney General's Office raised in its brief, but remanded those and other issues to the trial court for further proceedings.
On April 29, 2014, in an unpublished California Court of Appeal decision in United Parcel Service, Inc. v. Department of Fair Employment and Housing, the Attorney General, on behalf of the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, successfully advocated for an employee's right to be free from disability discrimination. The case arose from the Fair Employment and Housing Commission's (Commission) administrative decision finding that the employer unlawfully terminated an employee based on a perceived disability resulting from a knee injury and, further, failed to take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent discrimination from occurring, all in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act. The Court of Appeal held that the Commission's findings were supported by substantial evidence. In its opinion, the Court of Appeal concluded that the employer failed to meet its obligation to individually assess whether medical restrictions placed on the employee prevented her from performing her essential job functions or, alternatively, whether she was actually performing those functions. The Court agreed that the employer could not avoid that obligation on the grounds that the employer and employee had shared responsibility for the breakdown in the interactive process related to the separate issue of possible job-related accommodations.
In an unpublished California Court of Appeal decision issued on January 19, 2012, in Terra Linda Farms, Inc. v. California Fair Employment and Housing Com'n, the Attorney General, on behalf of the Fair Employment and Housing Commission (Commission), successfully defended a woman's right to be free from retaliation in the workplace when reporting sexual harassment, as well as enforced an employer's obligation to take reasonable steps necessary to prevent retaliation from occurring. The case arose from the Commission's administrative decision finding that the employer retaliated against two employees who complained when they were subjected to inappropriate sexually harassing conduct. The Attorney General was also successful in prevailing over the employer's assertion that the women's claims were barred by federal law under the National Labor Relations Act.
In a decision published on July 15, 2009, by the California Court of Appeal in Sasco Elec. v. California Fair Employment and Housing Com'n (2009) 176 Cal.App.4th 533, the Attorney General, representing the Fair Employment and Housing Commission (Commission), successfully vindicated a woman's right to be free from pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. The case arose from the Commission's administrative decision finding that the employer discriminated against the employee by terminating her when it learned about her pregnancy. Both the trial court and the Court of Appeal upheld the Commission's decision, finding that the employer had violated the Fair Employment and Housing Act by terminating the employee. The Court of Appeal also affirmed the Commission's awards of emotional distress damages, an administrative monetary fine, and back pay between the date of the discharge and the date the employee's child was born. With respect to the award of back pay, the Court of Appeal held that the employer had failed to prove that had the employee become disabled during her pregnancy, the employer could not have accommodated her disability by, for example, transferring her to a different position.
On September 29, 2004, the Attorney General, on behalf of the Fair Employment and Housing Commission (Commission), successfully obtained a published decision from the California Court of Appeal in California Fair Employment and Housing Com'n v. Gemini Aluminum Corp. (2004) 122 Cal.App.4th 1004. That decision affirmed the Commission's administrative decision finding that an employer had violated the Fair Employment and Housing Act when it refused to provide a religious accommodation to a Jehovah's witness who sought leave from his employment to attend a religious convention sponsored by his church, and thereafter, fired him after he attended the convention following the denial of his leave request.
On April 9, 2002, the Attorney General filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the California Court of Appeal in Salazar v. Diversified Paratransit supporting an employer's liability under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) for the harassment of an employee by a client or customer. After the Court of Appeal initially rejected the argument that the FEHA applied to a client or customer's harassing conduct, the Legislature enacted legislation clarifying that the FEHA intended to protect employees from such harassment. After the matter had been remanded by the Supreme Court to consider the legislation's affect, the Court of Appeal, in a published decision (Salazar v. Diversified Paratransit (2004) 117 Cal.App.4th 318), reversed its earlier decision subsequently holding that customer or client harassment of employees was actionable under the FEHA.
On March 21, 2002, the Office of the Attorney General filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the California Supreme Court in Colmenares v. Braemar Country Club arguing that California's protection prohibiting discrimination based upon a physical disability under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) is broader than under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. On February 20, 2003, the California Supreme Court agreed, holding that the FEHA defines "physical disability" to limit a major life activity, but does not require the "substantial limitation" standard imposed by the federal ADA. (Colmenares v. Braemar Country Club, Inc. (2003) 29 Cal.4th 1019, 1030.)
In May 2001, the Attorney General joined in a friend-of-the-court brief authored by the Attorney General of Missouri filed with the United States Supreme Court in Equal Opportunity Employment Commission v. Waffle House, Inc. supporting the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC) right to bring individual discrimination enforcement actions, which can include recovery of back pay and damages, despite private employment arbitration clauses. On January 15, 2002, the Supreme Court agreed, holding that private agreements to arbitrate employment discrimination claims do not bar the EEOC from bringing its own enforcement actions. (E.E.O.C. v. Waffle House, Inc. (2002) 534 U.S. 279, 297.)
EQUAL ACCESS TO HIGHER EDUCATION
Fisher v. University of Texas. On October 30, 2015, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the United States Supreme Court on behalf of the State of California in the latest case to address the consideration of race in university admissions decision-making. This is the second time the Supreme Court will consider this challenge to the University of Texas' admissions procedure, which considers race among a number of other diversity factors. In 2013, the Court reversed a decision by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals' in favor of the University and sent the case back to the Court of Appeals for consideration under a less deferential application of the strict scrutiny standard of review. The Fifth Circuit again affirmed the district court's summary judgment in favor of the University and the matter was again taken up by the Supreme Court. California's current brief – like one it filed in 2012 –encourages the Court to continue to recognize that states have a compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits that derive from having a diverse student body at their public universities and colleges and that such an interest can justify the consideration of race as part of a holistic admissions plan. The brief also argues that the compelling state interest in achieving the educational benefits of diversity also justifies consideration of race to ensure that the students of color a college or university admits represent a broad range of backgrounds and experiences. Attorney General Harris filed a similar brief on August 13, 2012, when this matter was first before the Supreme Court. By participating in this case, Attorney General Harris seeks to encourage the Supreme Court to reaffirm its important ruling in Grutter v. Bollinger (2003) 539 U.S. 306 that diversity in higher education is a compelling governmental interest that can justify the use of race-conscious admissions standards.
Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), et. al. On August 30, 2013, California filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the United States Supreme Court arguing that a provision of Michigan's constitution that is virtually identical to California's Proposition 209 (Cal. Const. art. I, § 31(a)) is unconstitutional. The States of Hawai'i, Illinois, Iowa, New Mexico, and Oregon, as well as the District of Columbia, joined the brief. Michigan's constitution, like Proposition 209, bars "preferential treatment . . . on the basis of race, . . . color, ethnicity, or national origin" in public education. California's multi-state brief argued that the Michigan constitutional provision violated the Equal Protection Clause of the federal Constitution, pursuant to Washington v. Seattle School Dist. No. 1 (1982) 458 U.S. 457 (Seattle) and Hunter v. Erickson (1969) 393 U.S. 385 (Hunter). Hunter and Seattle establish that the Equal Protection Clause may be violated by a discriminatory restructuring of governmental decision-making in a way that places a "special burden" on specific groups. The brief authored by California asserted that Michigan's constitutional amendment imposed such a burden on the adoption of constitutionally-permissible race-conscious admissions plans, which primarily benefit students of color. The brief pointed out that adoption of such a plan would require a state constitutional amendment, while policies considering nonracial diversity factors could be approved by admissions committees or university officials and governing boards. On April 22, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 6-2 decision, rejected the challenge to the Michigan constitutional provision. The plurality repudiated a broad interpretation of the Hunter-Seattle doctrine that would apply strict scrutiny in actions that have a racial focus and that make it more difficult for certain racial minorities than for other groups to achieve legislation in their interests.
Information about the Attorney General's initiatives addressing equal access to elementary and secondary schools may be found at the webpage of the Bureau of Children's Justice.
The Attorney General maintains Rapid Response Protocol, pdf to assist in the investigation, identification, arrest, prosecution and conviction of those who commit hate crimes. The protocol ensures an immediate deployment of California Department of Justice resources when a hate crime occurs involving serious injury, death or significant destruction of property. Department resources to be made available to assist local and federal law enforcement agencies include: forensic services, intelligence specialists, profilers, criminal and civil rights attorneys, and support for victims of hate crimes.
The Attorney General has available brochures in nine languages on how to identify hate crimes, how to report hate crimes and the services available to victims of hate crimes.
The Attorney General also publishes an annual Hate Crime In California Report assessing the number of hate crime events, hate crime offenses, hate crime victims, and hate crime suspects. The 2014 report highlights hate crime trends, including the most common types of hate crimes broken down by protected class, as well as by county and city. The Report puts these statistics in historical perspective by providing trend information on the number and types of hate crimes over the past ten years.
On June 22, 2015, the Attorney General successfully obtained a court order invalidating a proposed ballot measure for the so-called "Sodomite Suppression Act." As the Attorney General has stated, the proposal which "seeks to legalize discrimination and vigilantism," "not only threatens public safety, it is patently unconstitutional, utterly reprehensible, and has no place in a civil society."
In June 2010, the Attorney General prevailed in an action filed by the Attorney General under the Ralph Act (Civ. Code, § 51.7), in a case involving the assault of a Latino man. Following trial, the court found that the defendants, who had used racial and ethnic epithets during their assault, had violated the Ralph Act because their bias against the victim was a substantial factor in the assault. The Attorney General obtained substantial civil penalties for the victim, as well as attorneys' fees and costs against the defendants.
On August 9, 2002, the Attorney General filed an amicus brief in the United States Supreme Court in Virginia v. Black supporting the constitutionality of Virginia's "anti-cross-burning" statute, which prohibited the burning of a cross on public or private property, if done with the intent to intimidate any person. On April 7, 2003, the Supreme Court issued its decision, holding that a state statute that prohibits cross burning committed with the intent to intimidate does not violate the First Amendment. This holding is consistent with the position advanced in the Attorney General's brief. However, the Court also held that Virginia's statute is unconstitutional because it contains a provision that treats any cross-burning as prima facie evidence of intent to intimidate.
Under the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA), it is unlawful to refuse to sell or rent housing because of an individual's race, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin. In 2014, the California Attorney General on behalf of the State of California, joined 14 other states, in an friend-of-the-court brief filed with the United States Supreme Court in Texas Dept. of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. (2015) 576 U.S. __, 135 S.Ct. 2507, supporting the right of housing discrimination victims to bring disparate impact claims where a practice has a disproportionate adverse impact on a protected class of persons. The brief argued that disparate impact claims serve an indispensable role in combatting more hidden forms of intentional discrimination. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that housing discrimination victims are entitled to bring disparate impact claims under the FHA where policies or practices have a disproportionate adverse impact on protected classes without needing to establish the property owner's or manager's intent to discriminate.
In 2010, in People v. Minh Development and Management, LLC., et al., the Attorney General successfully obtained a stipulated judgment against property owners in this housing discrimination case. The Attorney General's civil lawsuit alleged that the property owners discriminated against prospective tenants on the basis of race, ethnicity and/or national origin in violation of California's Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). In addition to paying $150,000 in civil penalties and attorneys' fees, the property owners were required to implement various rental practice reforms, including the provision of employee training on California housing laws, all subject to third-party monitoring for compliance.
Between 2006 and 2009, the Attorney General successfully obtained settlements against nine companies that had constructed apartment complexes that failed to comply with state and federal accessibility laws. The settlements in each of these cases required that the companies comply with state and federal design and construction requirements in the construction of any future buildings, would correct the accessibility deficiencies found by the California Attorney General's Office, and pay civil penalties and attorneys' fees and costs.
In Department of Fair Employment and Housing v. 1105 Alta Loma Road Apts. (2007) 154 Cal.App.4th 1273, the Attorney General successfully obtained a published decision on behalf of the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). In its decision, the Court of Appeal rejected a landlord's argument that DFEH's housing discrimination claim arising out of a tenant's disability was barred as a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation based upon the actions and statements the landlord had made in conjunction with prior eviction proceedings. The Court of Appeal held that the DFEH's complaint arose out of the landlord's alleged actions in failing to accommodate the tenant's disability, rather than the landlord's communications made in connection with removing the residential units from the rental market.
On September 9, 2004, the Office of the Attorney General secured a published decision from the California Court of Appeal in Auburn Woods I Homeowners Assn. v. Fair Employment and Housing Commission. (2004) 121 Cal.App.4th 1578. In this case, a homeowners association refused to grant an accommodation from its "no dogs" rule to a couple who required a companion animal, a dog, to treat their clinical depression. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court that had overturned the Commission's decision, holding that the homeowners association violated the Fair Employment and Housing Act by refusing to grant the request for an accommodation. This was the first case decided under California law to hold that a homeowners association may have to modify its "no dogs" rule to reasonably accommodate a person with a mental disability by allowing that person to keep a companion animal in his unit.
On September 9, 2004, the Office of the Attorney General secured a published decision from the California Court of Appeal in Auburn Woods I Homeowners Assn. v. Fair Employment and Housing Commission. In this case, a homeowners association refused to grant an accommodation from its "no dogs" rule to a couple who required a companion animal, a dog, to treat their clinical depression. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court that had overturned the Commission's decision holding that the homeowners association violated the Fair Employment and Housing Act by refusing to grant the request for an accommodation. This is the first case decided under California law to hold that a homeowners association may have to modify its "no dogs" rule to reasonably accommodate a person with a mental disability by allowing that person to keep a companion animal in his unit.
OFFICE OF IMMIGRANT ASSISTANCE AND IMMIGRANT RIGHTS
The Attorney General's Office of Immigrant Assistance provides outreach and education to inform immigrant communities about state laws, and to break down barriers that make immigrants reluctant to report both criminal and civil law violations to law enforcement agencies including the California Department of Justice. The Office of Immigrant Assistance has published a variety of advisories and brochures, including "Immigration Services Fraud: Know Your Rights" in English, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog, Chinese, and Vietnamese, as well as the brochure "Preventing Hate Crime: What We Can Do!" in English, Arabic, Armenian, Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Punjabi, Spanish and Vietnamese.
Additional Attorney General initiatives focused on immigrant rights include:
U-Visa Law Enforcement Bulletin. On October 28, 2015, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris issued an information bulletin to California law enforcement agencies detailing new responsibilities under state law to assist immigrant crime victims in applying for U visas, a form of immigration relief specifically set aside for victims of crime who lack authorized immigration status. The new law (Penal Code Section 679.10) mandates that certain state and local law enforcement agencies and other specified officials complete U visa certifications, upon request, for immigrant crime victims who have been helpful, are being helpful, or are likely to be helpful in the detection, investigation, or prosecution of specified qualifying crimes. The new law also requires certifying entities to complete the certification within 90 days of the request, except in cases where the applicant is in immigration removal proceedings, in which case the certification must be completed within 14 days of the request.
State of Texas, et al. v. United States of America. Attorney General Kamala D. Harris has been a vigorous champion of President Obama's November 2014 executive actions on immigration, which include an expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the creation of the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program. On February 16, 2015, Texas and 25 other states obtained a nationwide preliminary injunction enjoining the start of these executive actions on immigration. The federal government appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal and on April 6, 2015 California, along with Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, joined a friend-of-the-court brief authored by the State of Washington supporting the U.S.'s appeal of the preliminary injunction. The states' brief argues that the plaintiffs failed to show the irreparable injury required to support a preliminary injunction, and that suspending deportation and providing work authorization will substantially benefit families and state economies; that the directives will not require states to increase spending on public safety, healthcare, or other state benefits; and that the public interest will be furthered by allowing eligible undocumented immigrants to work legally and by allowing eligible family members to remain together and continue contributing to their communities. On November 9, 2015, the Fifth Circuit, in 2-1 decision, affirmed the preliminary injunction blocking the President’s executive actions. The federal government has announced that it plans to request that the United States Supreme Court review the Fifth Circuit’s decision.
Attorney General's Office, Univision Los Angeles and SEIU California's Statewide Public Forums on Immigration. In the summer of 2015, the Attorney General's Office hosted a series of statewide public forums in partnership with Univision Los Angeles, Service Employees International Union of California and iAmerica to inform Californians about the impact of President Barack Obama's immigration executive actions. The public forums were hosted in eight California counties including: Fresno, Kern, Los Angeles, Monterey, Riverside, San Diego, Santa Clara and Stanislaus. The forums covered topics ranging from eligibility for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program, including how to avoid being a victim of immigrant consultant fraud.
The Civil Rights Enforcement Section's mission includes assisting the Attorney General on civil rights issues in the area of police practices. The Office of the Attorney General maintains a policy governing the review of complaints received by the Department of Justice that allege police misconduct by local law enforcement agencies or their employees. Under that policy, complaints received by this office from complainants who have exhausted the local review process will be referred to both the Criminal Law Division and the Civil Rights Enforcement Section for review and appropriate action.
Additional significant matters focused on police practices handled by the Civil Rights Enforcement Section include the following:
In July 2014, in the case, Los Angeles Police Protective League v. City of Los Angeles, the Attorney General filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the Los Angeles Police Department's (LAPD) exercise of managerial discretion to issue Special Order 7. Special Order 7 prohibits officers from invoking the fixed 30-day impound statute for vehicles driven by unlicensed drivers in certain circumstances. Special Order 7 was implemented to provide a clear directive to officers on how to handle the various discretionary Vehicle Code impound statutes and to address allegations of disparate treatment and other concerns raised by the city's immigrant community. The Los Angeles Police Protective League challenged Special Order 7, principally arguing that it unlawfully deprived individual officers of discretion to impound a vehicle as allowed under the Vehicle Code. The Attorney General's brief argued that the LAPD's decision to exercise vehicle impound discretion at the managerial level, thereby limiting individual officer's discretion, is a lawful exercise of the LAPD's authority and is consistent with California law enforcement tradition. The brief further argued that to maximize public safety, law enforcement agencies must retain the authority to evaluate the unique needs of their particular communities and officers, and determine when the issuance of discretion-limiting directives are appropriate. On December 26, 2014, the California Court of Appeal issued a decision concluding that Special Order 7 is within the broad discretion of the police chief, and that neither the Protective League nor the individual taxpayer who filed the action had standing to challenge the policy.
On July 21, 2009, the Attorney General secured a court order compelling the City of Maywood to implement critical use-of-force and related reforms within its Police Department. The order capped a comprehensive investigation of the Maywood Police Department by the Attorney General that uncovered patterns of excessive use of force, and a conspicuous absence of meaningful articulation of probable cause to justify arrests and searches and reasonable suspicion to detain members of the public. In March 2009, the Attorney General issued 30-page public report regarding this investigation and the Attorney General's findings. Effective July 1, 2010, the City of Maywood elected to disband its police department and contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department for police services.
In the late spring of 1999, after concluding that the four officers who were involved in the shooting death of Tyisha Miller in Riverside, California, should not be criminally charged, the Attorney General launched a civil investigation of the Riverside Police Department. On March 5, 2001, the Office of the Attorney General filed a complaint and stipulated judgment in People of the State of California, etc. v. City of Riverside. This stipulated judgment resolved a nearly two-year civil rights investigation into the practices and policies of the City's police department. It is believed that this was the first consent decree to reform a local police department ever secured by a state attorney general under state law. The judgment, which remained in effect for a period of five years, required the Riverside Police Department to implement reforms in the areas of training, supervision, and accountability. The City of Riverside was required to pay the cost of a consultant to assist the Attorney General in monitoring compliance with the terms of the judgment. On March 2, 2006, the Attorney General, after concluding that the Riverside Police Department had fulfilled the conditions of the judgment, requested and received formal approval from the court for the judgment's dissolution.
REPRESENTATION OF THE NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE COMMISSION
On January 8, 2015, the Attorney General, on behalf of the Native American Heritage Commission, filed an action to force the County of Inyo to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) as it applies to Native American archeological and cultural resources. The petition alleges that the County approved a construction project for a small-scale solar energy facility in the Owens Valley without first completing testing that would have determined whether archeological sites within the project area contain sensitive Native American historical and cultural resources requiring a more thorough review and analysis. The petition further alleges that the mitigation measures that were adopted by the County were not adequate to address the harm the project could cause to these resources.
In June 2010, the Attorney General, on behalf of the Native American Heritage Commission, filed a legal action seeking to prevent a water district from constructing a pump station, a 2.5-million gallon reservoir, and flow control facility on a Native American sanctified cemetery and ceremonial site in San Diego County. Under a July 12, 2012 settlement agreement, the Water District agreed not to build the project, and transferred the land to a Native American tribal entity.
On March 23, 2006, the Attorney General, on behalf of the Native American Heritage Commission, filed suit seeking to enjoin construction of a toll road in Orange and San Diego counties through the indigenous Village of Panhé, a major village of the Juaneño/Acjachemen people, that is still used for reburials and other ceremonial activities. Because an adverse Coastal Commission decision prevented the project from going forward, the case was dismissed without prejudice, but was reinstated in 2013 when the Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency and its Board of Directors approved the initial 5.5-mile portion of the road, purportedly as a separate project. The San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board then denied a necessary permit. On appeal from that decision, the State Water Resources Control Board remanded the matter back to the regional board with directions to provide the factual and legal basis for its decision. The Regional Board again denied the permit and the Transportation Corridor Agency again sought review by the State Board. That petition for review was deemed dismissed by operation of law without review on July 14, 2015. Pursuant to an agreement with the Regional Board, the Transportation Corridor Agency has until February 15, 2016, to file suit challenging that dismissal. Our lawsuit has been stayed indefinitely pending the resolution of the water permit issues.
On October 5, 2015, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris along with the Attorneys General from ten other states joined a friend-of-the-court brief written by the State of New York in support of the Whole Woman’s Health clinic’s petition for a writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court. A petition for writ of certiorari asks the Supreme Court to decide a case, which the Supreme Court is not required to do. The case, Whole Woman’s Health, et al. v. Cole, concerns government enactment of laws referred to as “targeted regulations of abortion providers” (TRAP laws). The States’ brief argues that the Supreme Court should grant certiorari review to resolve a disagreement between regional appeals courts about the level of deference a court should give to legislative findings underlying a state law regulating abortion services, assertedly to protect maternal health, when that law is challenged as an unwarranted—and thus undue—burden on the constitutional right to obtain an abortion. In this case, the Fifth Circuit held that state legislative judgments regarding the safety of abortion services are entitled to near-total deference, and an abortion regulation purportedly enacted to promote maternal health will be viewed as a legitimate health measure, even in the face of strong evidence that the regulation does not advance maternal health. Our friend-of-the-court brief argues that such uncritical deference to legislative findings where state abortion regulations do not serve their stated goal of protecting women’s health can fail to give sufficient protection to the constitutional right to obtain an abortion. Moreover, proper respect for the right to an abortion requires courts to more closely review abortion regulations to determine if TRAP laws actually promote women’s health. The brief further argues that appropriate judicial review provides guidance to the states, channeling their decision-making toward evidence-based abortion regulations and discouraging ineffective, or even counterproductive, regulations. On November 13, 2015, the Unites States Supreme Court granted Whole Woman’s Health clinic’s petition for a writ of certiorari and agreed to review this case.
In November 2013, the Attorney General joined a multi-state amicus brief filed with the United States Supreme Court that supported a Massachusetts law creating a 35-foot buffer zone around reproductive health care facilities against a First Amendment challenge. The Massachusetts law prohibited anyone from being within 35 feet of the entrances or driveways of health care facilities (other than hospitals) where abortions are offered or performed, with certain limited exceptions. The brief argued that the buffer zone law is a reasonable time, place and manner restriction, especially in light of Massachusetts' prior unsuccessful experience with narrower restrictions. The Supreme Court disagreed, unanimously holding that the law violated the First Amendment. The Supreme Court's decision is entitled McCullen v. Coakley, 124 S.Ct. 2518 (2014).
SEXUAL ORIENTATION DISCRIMINATION
Attorney General Kamala D. Harris has been on the forefront of championing marriage equality and the fundamental civil rights of same-sex couples. As Attorney General Harris argued in a friend-of-the-court brief filed with the United States Supreme Court in the historic Hollingsworth v. Perry case, "To be clear, Proposition 8's sole purpose was to prevent same-sex couples from marrying. There is absolutely no legitimate or rational state interest in doing so. Proposition 8 is therefore unconstitutional." More information regarding Attorney General Harris' engagement on marriage equality can be found at https://oag.ca.gov/news/press-releases/attorney-general-kamala-d-harris-celebrates-marriage-equality-asks-ninth-circuit.
The Office of the Attorney General has also participated in significant cases to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation by business establishments, including North Coast Women's Medical Group v. Superior Court (2008) 44 Cal 4th 1145. In that case, the Attorney General filed a friend-of-the court brief in the California Supreme Court in support of a woman who was reportedly refused fertilization services by a medical practice because she was an unmarried lesbian. The medical practice asserted that its actions were protected by the constitutional right to free exercise of religion. The Attorney General's brief argued that a religious objection defense is unavailable in a state civil rights enforcement action under the Unruh Civil Rights Act. The California Supreme Court agreed, unanimously holding that physicians do not have a constitutional right to discriminate based on sexual orientation in violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act, even if the discrimination is based on their religious beliefs.
In 2004, the Office of the Attorney General filed a friend-of-the court brief in the California Supreme Court in support of a lesbian couple who were denied family membership benefits at a county club at which one of them was a member. The couple were registered domestic partners under California law. In this brief, the Attorney General argued that treating registered domestic partners differently from married couples in the provision of any accommodation, advantage, facility, privilege or service by a business establishment, without a legitimate business reason for such differentiation, is a violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act. We further argued that there is no legitimate interest in refusing to offer membership benefits to registered domestic partners on the same basis as they are offered to married couples. The California Supreme Court agreed, holding that the Unruh Civil Rights Act prohibited the country club from discriminating between married couples and registered domestic partners in the provision of its services and benefits. The case is entitled, Koepke v. Bernardo Heights Country Club (2005) 36 Cal.4th 824.
Evenwel v. Abbott. On September 25, 2015, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris along with the Attorneys General from nineteen other states joined a friend-of-the-court brief written by the State of New York in support of the State of Texas's merits brief to the Supreme Court of the United States in this important case concerning voting districts. The brief argues that the states' use of total population (i.e., all persons counted by the federal Census, including those ineligible to vote) rather than voter or potential voter population (i.e., registered voters or "eligible voters") as the basis for equalizing the population within state legislative districts does not violate the "one-person, one-vote" principle applicable to the states through the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The friend-of-the-court brief recounts the states' negative experiences using other types of population counts besides the federal Census, and argues that moving away from the use of total population would cause severe practical problems for the states, including reference to several examples from California's history and experiences. Additionally, the brief argues that the use of total population represents a policy choice by the states reflecting a constitutionally sound vision of representational government in which many nonvoting groups, such as children, the mentally incompetent, and undocumented immigrants, are nonetheless considered to be segments of the population that state government should meaningfully represent.
Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder. On February 1, 2013, the Attorney General along with the Attorney Generals from Mississippi and North Carolina joined a friend-of-the-court brief written by the State of New York urging the United States Supreme Court to uphold the constitutionality of Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 (the "Act"). The States of Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina, South Dakota, Alabama, Texas, and Alaska filed opposing friend-of- the-court briefs contending that the Act was an impermissible encroachment on state sovereignty. Section 5 of this landmark legislation prohibited "covered jurisdictions" -- those states and political subdivisions identified in the Act as having histories of racial discrimination in voting -- from making any change in their voting procedures without first demonstrating that the change "neither has the purpose nor will have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race or color." The friend-of-the-court brief we joined argued that this preclearance process places minimal burden upon the affected states, that the benefits of the preclearance process, i.e. ensuring equality in voting, greatly outweigh any burden imposed. On June 25, 2013, the Supreme Court held that section 4(b) of the Act, which sets out the formula used to determine which state and local governments must comply with Section 5's preclearance requirement, is unconstitutional, therefore making Section 5 obsolete until Congress can enact a new statute to determine which jurisdictions should be covered by Section 5.