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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on June 7th, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 19, Issue 14 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 19, Issue 14

Class certification granted in Santa Barbara County Jail lawsuit

By KASEY BUBNASH

A U.S. District Court judge granted a motion for class certification on May 31 to the complainants of a federal class action lawsuit against Santa Barbara County and the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office.

The complaint, which was originally filed on Dec. 6 last year, includes detailed accounts of the county's alleged poor treatment of inmates with disabilities and mental health issues, and claims that conditions in the Santa Barbara County Jail are dangerous and unlawful.

Current inmates and representative plaintiffs Clay Murray, David Franco, Shareen Winkle, Maria Tracy, and Eric Brown are not seeking damages, but rather court-ordered systematic reforms within the jail and its policies that would improve treatment of mentally ill and disabled inmates.

The plaintiffs filed a motion for class certification on March 6, according to Aaron Fischer, an attorney representing the plaintiffs through Disability Rights California, a nonprofit advocacy organization that conducted an extensive investigation into the Santa Barbara County Jail's treatment of its inmates in 2015.

The motion hearing was delayed in April, and U.S. District Court Judge George Wu approved the class certification at a hearing on May 31, allowing the lawsuit and its plaintiffs to represent all current, former, and future inmates of the jail. Such certification has benefits for both parties in avoiding costly litigation, Fischer said in a previous interview with the Sun, and the move went unopposed by the Sheriff's Office and county.

"The next step is for the parties to sit down and seriously discuss whether the county will address the deficiencies identified by us and independent experts, without the need for costly litigation," Fischer wrote in an email to the Sun. "We should have a shared goal—to ensure that people held in the Santa Barbara County Jail receive the mental health and medical treatment they need, and that they are not subjected to harmful conditions, consistent with the Constitution and the law."

Fischer said Disability Rights, the Sheriff's Office, and the county will be working toward remedial plan negotiations this spring and summer, a process that he said typically takes time and patience.




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