In May 2021, Attorney General Bonta established the Racial Justice Bureau to increase focus on racial and social justice issues across DOJ's civil rights work and support new and ongoing efforts to protect all Californians. The Racial Justice Bureau is within the Public Right Division's Civil Rights Enforcement Section, and addresses unlawful race, color, and ancestry-based discrimination in a variety of areas, including but not limited to voting rights, immigration, law enforcement, and hate crimes. The Racial Justice Bureau advances racial justice through investigations, litigation, amicus briefs, public reports, and other publications.
The Racial Justice Bureau conducts investigations per Government Code section 11180 et seq. These investigations address systemic failures, a pattern or practice of violations, or discriminatory policies, procedures, or practices that broadly involve unlawful racial discrimination.
The Bureau does not handle individual complaints or inquiries. As a result, the Bureau does not represent individuals or provide individuals legal advice. The Bureau is not mandated to pursue cases involving isolated violations of law, matters against state-level public entities, or out-of-state conduct. Instead, the Bureau pursues systemic violations of law by local governmental entities or companies directly impacting the general public or large groups of individuals.
For individual matters, please submit a complaint with California's Civil Rights Department (formerly California Department of Fair Employment and Housing) here: CRD File a Complaint.
On June 30, 2021, the Division of Law Enforcement (DLE), with support from Racial Justice Bureau, issued a law enforcement bulletin regarding California's hate crimes laws, to help ensure that law enforcement officials are swiftly and appropriately responding to hate crimes. Racial Justice Bureau also issued guidance for prosecutors on best practices and resources for combating hate crimes at every level of enforcement. Read more about our office's efforts on hate crimes here.
In anticipation of the 2022 elections, DLE with support from the Bureau, published bulletins to law enforcement agencies and probation departments providing information about who is eligible to vote, reminding agencies of their responsibilities with respect to incarcerated individuals' right to vote, and outlining the categories of individuals who are eligible to vote despite being incarcerated or having a criminal history.
In March 2023, the Attorney General, through Racial Justice Bureau, co-led a coalition of 22 attorneys general in an amicus brief filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, pushing back against the ongoing, misguided effort led by Texas to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.United States v. Texas (Enforcement Priorities)
In September 2022, the Attorney General, through Racial Justice Bureau, co-led a multistate coalition in filing an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in support of guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to prioritize immigration enforcement efforts around those who pose the greatest threat to national security, public safety, and border security. Given DHS' limited enforcement resources, the guidance focuses efforts on direct threats to public safety and reasonably accounts for mitigating factors like a noncitizen's ties to family members and communities in the United States.Washington v. GEO Group
In May 2022, together with the Workers' Rights and Fair Labor Section, Racial Justice Bureau led a coalition of 16 attorneys general to file a brief in the Ninth Circuit in support of the State of Washington. The case centers around a lawsuit filed in 2017 by the State of Washington challenging GEO Group, Inc.'s (GEO) failure to pay state minimum wages to individuals who worked for GEO during their confinement to GEO's private, for-profit detention facility while awaiting the outcome of civil immigration proceedings.Biden v. Texas (Migrant Protection Protocols)
In March 2022, the Attorney General, through Racial Justice Bureau, joined a multistate amicus brief filed in the U.S. Supreme Court in defense of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's decision to terminate the harmful Migrant Protection Protections, commonly known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy. Under the policy, asylum seekers were forced to remain in Mexico during the pendency of their asylum cases and face significant hurdles to pursuing their claims, including limited access to counsel and the increased risk that they will be victims of violence.
In October 2022, the Attorney General, through Racial Justice Bureau, joined a multistate amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in defense of fundamental legal protections that safeguard free and fair federal elections across the country. The brief opposed an extreme legal theory in which state courts and other branches of government would have no authority in matters relating to federal elections, including redistricting.Merrill v. Milligan
In July 2022, the Attorney General, through Racial Justice Bureau, joined a multistate amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to reject Alabama's racially gerrymandered congressional map and to uphold long-standing anti-discrimination protections guaranteed under the Voting Rights Act.Community Success Initiative v. Moore
In August 2022, the Attorney General, through Racial Justice Bureau, joined a multistate coalition in filing an amicus brief urging the North Carolina Supreme Court to affirm a trial court decision to restore the voting rights of previously incarcerated individuals in North Carolina.League of Women Voters, Inc. v. Lee,
In December 2021, the Attorney General, through Racial Justice Bureau, joined a multistate amicus brief in the Eleventh Circuit opposing Florida's Senate Bill 90, which restricts access to voting by curtailing opportunities to vote by mail and limiting the use of ballot drop boxes.
In August 2022, the Racial Justice Bureau in collaboration with the Bureau for Children's Justice filed an amicus brief in the California Court of Appeal in Natomas Unified School District v. Sacramento County Board of Education, relating to the expulsion of an elementary school student, as California has moved away from exclusionary discipline that has disproportionately harmed students of color and other vulnerable student groups.
In June 2021, together with the Disability Rights Bureau, Racial Justice Bureau filed an amicus brief in the Ninth Circuit and then in October 2022 in the California Supreme Court regarding the definition of “employer” under the Fair Employment and Housing Act. The court's ruling will significantly affect thousands of people with disabilities and members of other groups, such as racial and ethnic minorities—to obtain remedies from agents who engage in discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in the workplace.
Assembly Bill 103 (2017) (AB 103), Cal. Gov't Code § 12532(a), requires the California Attorney General to conduct reviews of in-state facilities that house immigration detainees to assess “the conditions of confinement,” “the standard of care and due process provided,” and “the circumstances around [the] apprehension and transfer” of detainees until July 1, 2027. Racial Justice Bureau issued its most recent report on detention center conditions on July 14, 2022, which focused on COVID-19 protocols.
In October 2022, the Racial Justice Bureau launched of an independent investigation into the City of Los Angeles and its city council regarding the city's council district redistricting process. The investigation followed the release of leaked audio revealing deeply concerning remarks tied to the city's 2021 redistricting efforts, and will seek to determine whether there were any violations of state or federal voting rights laws and transparency laws. More information about the investigation can be found here.U.S. Postal Service Election Mail Settlement
In May 2022, the Attorney General, through the Racial Justice Bureau, joined into a settlement in the multistate lawsuit, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania et al. v. Louis Dejoy et al. This lawsuit was initiated in the months before the 2020 election, and challenged a number of U.S. Postal Service (USPS) operational and policy changes that resulted mail delays at a time when many states, including California, had broadly expanded mail-in voting. Under the settlement, representatives from the USPS is required to post election mail related policies consistent with the settlement to ensure the timely delivery of election mail. Read more about the lawsuit here.
In December 2021, the Racial Justice Bureau launched an independent review of the Torrance Police Department to identify and correct potential systemic failures in the department's policies and practices. The review comes amidst deeply concerning allegations of excessive force, racist text messages, and other discriminatory misconduct, and follows a request for assistance by the Torrance Chief of Police. More information about the review can be found here.
In May 2022, the Racial Justice Bureau launched a civil rights investigation into the Antioch Police Department (APD). The investigation will seek to determine whether the law enforcement agency has engaged in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional policing amid deeply concerning allegations relating to bigoted text messages and other potentially discriminatory misconduct. If, through this investigation, the Attorney General's Office determines that unlawful activity or practices took place, the office will also determine what potential actions are needed to ensure comprehensive corrective action takes place at APD. More information can be found here.Racial Identity and Profiling Act Advisory Board
The Racial and Identity Profiling Act (RIPA) of 2015, Assembly Bill 953, Government Code, § 12525.5, requires law enforcement agencies to report data regarding stops to the Attorney General. The bill tasked the Attorney General with forming a RIPA Advisory Board, “for the purpose of eliminating racial and identity profiling, and improving diversity and racial and identity sensitivity in law enforcement.” (Pen. Code, § 13519.4, subd. (j)(1).) The Advisory Board is required to issue yearly reports containing “detailed findings on the past and current status of racial and identity profiling, and make policy recommendations for eliminating racial and identity profiling.” (Pen. Code, § 13519.4, subd. (j)(3).) The Racial Justice Bureau provides technical, research, and legal support to the Advisory Board. More information about the Advisory Board can be found here, and the Board's 2023 report can be found here.
Assembly Bill 3121 (AB 3121) was enacted on September 30, 2020 and establishes the Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans (Task Force). The Department of Justice, which includes the Racial Justice Bureau, provides administrative, technical, and legal assistance to the Task Force in its imperative work. More information about the Task Force is located here, and the Task Force's Interim 2022 report can be found here.
The Racial Justice Bureau has broad jurisdiction to enforce all state laws protecting California residents from racial, national origin, and color, discrimination. These include:
The Bureau focuses its enforcement and advocacy efforts on several areas, including:
The work of the Bureau intersects with many other areas of expertise within the Civil Rights Enforcement Section, including the Bureau of Children's Justice and Disability Rights Bureau. It also converges with the work of other sections within DOJ, including Workers' Rights and Fair Labor, Consumer Protection, and Healthcare Rights and Access.
The Racial Justice Bureau does not handle individual complaints or inquiries. As a result, the Bureau does not represent individuals or provide individuals legal advice. The Bureau is not mandated to pursue cases involving isolated violations of law, matters against state-level public entities, or out-of-state conduct. Instead, the Bureau pursues systemic violations of law by local governmental entities or companies directly impacting the general public or large groups of individuals.
If you have a potential matter for the Racial Justice Bureau's consideration, you may contact the Public Inquiry Unit with your inquiry:
The information provided should include as much detail as possible about the facts of the matter. All inquiries will be kept confidential to the extent permitted by law.
Please note that the Bureau or other staff may follow up to request further information but it cannot respond to every inquiry. The Bureau cannot provide ongoing updates regarding an investigation or litigation, even to individuals who provided information regarding those matters.