LBAC DEFEATS RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION CASE BROUGHT BY IMMIGRATION INMATE

Plaintiff Paramjit Singh was detained by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement on May 18, 2011. The next day, he was turned over to the custody of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. Plaintiff alleged that he was assaulted by an unknown deputy as he was booked into the Orange County Jail, and was not permitted to wear a turban (which is a tenet of his Sikh religion). Plaintiff’s lawsuit was brought against the County of Orange and Sheriff Hutchens in her official capacity, seeking monetary damages and equitable relief under state law, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”) – 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc et seq. LBAC filed a Demurrer and Motion to Strike the First Amended Complaint on several grounds. As to Plaintiff’s state law claims, Defendants argued that the application of statutory immunities barred Plaintiff’s state law claims, and that the lack of a damages remedy for an alleged violation of the free exercise clause of the state constitution barred his claim for damages. With regard to Plaintiff’s federal claims, Defendants argued that under Venegas v. County of Los Angeles, 32 Cal. 4th 820 (2004), California Sheriffs act on behalf of the state, rather than the county, and that California Sheriffs are therefore entitled to the state’s sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment from § 1983 actions. Defendants extended that rationale to actions brought under RLUIPA. The Court sustained Defendants’ Demurrer and granted the Motion to Strike, with leave to amend. After Plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint, Defendants brought another Motion to Strike which was granted in its entirety, leaving only Plaintiff’s claim of assault against the unknown Doe deputy. Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed the remainder of his case.