The U.S. Supreme Court refused Monday to shield Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca from being sued for racial gang violence in the jails he supervises.
The justices without comment turned down an appeal from the county’s lawyers, who argued Baca cannot be held personally liable for the stabbing of an inmate since he had no personal involvement in the incident.
Instead, the court let stand a decision of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which said Baca can be sued for “deliberate indifference” to the inmate’s rights since he was on notice of the jailhouse violence and failed to take action to stop it.
Dion Starr says he was stabbed 23 times by Latino gang members at the Central Men’s Jail in 2006. He also says he was kicked in the face by a guard who saw the incident and refused to come to his aid. In his suit, Starr named Baca as well as the guards and deputies who were at the scene.
Judges in California had been split over whether there was enough evidence for the suit against Baca to go forward. U.S. District Judge George Wu in Los Angeles threw out the claim against the sheriff in 2008, since there was no evidence personally linking Baca to the jailhouse stabbing.