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Rodriguez v. County of Los Angeles

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

May 30, 2018

Heriberto Rodriguez; Carlos Flores; Juan Carlos Sanchez; Erick Nunez; Juan Trinidad, Plaintiffs-Appellees,
v.
County of Los Angeles; Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, Defendants, and Daniel Cruz; Matthew Onhemus; Clayton Stelter; Justin Bravo; Herman Delgado; Adrian Ruiz; Carlos Ortega; Francisco Alonso; Christopher Blasnek; Michel McGrattan; Kelley Washington; Alejandro Hernandez Castanon; Arthur Diaz, Jr.; Michael Frazier; Antonio Galindo; Armando Gonzalez; Matthew Nowotny; Joseph Sanford; Hector Vazquez; Ivan Delatorre; John McNicholas, Defendants-Appellants. Heriberto Rodriguez; Carlos Flores; Juan Trinidad; Juan Carlos Sanchez; Erick Nunez, Plaintiffs-Appellees,
v.
County of Los Angeles; Daniel Cruz; Christopher Blasnek; Matthew Onhemus; Michel McGrattan; Kelley Washington; Clayton Stelter; Justin Bravo; Francisco Alonso; Alejandro Hernandez Castanon; Michael Frazier; Joseph Sanford; Hector Vazquez; Nicholas Graham; Blake Orlandos; Matthew Thomas; Javier Guzman; Andrew Lyons; Adolph Esqueda; Herman Delgado, Defendants-Appellants.

          Submitted August 31, 2017 Pasadena, California

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California Consuelo B. Marshall, Senior District Judge, Presiding Argued and D.C. No. 2:10-cv-06342-CBM-AJW

          David D. Lawrence (argued) and Jin S. Choi, Lawrence Beach Allen & Choi P.C., Glendale, California; Andrew C. Pongracz, Seki Nishimura & Watase LLP, Los Angeles, California; for Defendants-Appellants.

          Caitlin S. Weisberg (argued), Barrett S. Litt, and Ronald O. Kaye, Kaye McLane Bednarski & Litt LLP, Pasadena, California; James S. Muller, Offices of James S. Muller, Glendale, California; for Plaintiffs-Appellees.

          Before: William A. Fletcher and Sandra S. Ikuta, Circuit Judges, and Sarah Evans Barker, [*] District Judge.

         SUMMARY[**]

         Prisoner Civil Rights

         The panel affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of plaintiffs following a jury trial, award of compensatory and punitive damages, and award of attorney's fees in a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action brought by five prisoners who were severely injured during the course of cell extractions at the Los Angeles County Men's Central Jail.

         The panel first denied appellants' request to vacate the final judgment on the basis that the district court lacked jurisdiction to go to trial during the pendency of appellants' interlocutory appeal from a prior qualified immunity ruling. The panel held that although the district court failed to certify pursuant to Chuman v. Wright, 960 F.2d 104, 105 (9th Cir. 1992), that the interlocutory appeal was frivolous, any error was harmless.

         Addressing the issue of exhaustion of administrative remedies under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the panel held that the district court did not clearly err in finding that a reasonable fear of retaliation made the grievance system effectively unavailable for appellees, and that appellants failed to carry their burden of proof showing otherwise.

         The panel held that the district court did not err by denying appellants' Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(b) motion, based on qualified immunity, for judgment as a matter of law. The panel held that there was abundant evidence presented to the jury that appellants inflicted severe injuries on appellees while they were not resisting, and even while they were unconscious. A jury could reasonably reject appellants' argument that they acted reasonably and instead determine that the force was not part of a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline. The panel therefore rejected appellants' sufficiency of the evidence challenge to the jury's finding of a constitutional violation.

         The panel also found unpersuasive appellants' arguments that the law regarding their conduct was not clearly established. Addressing the liability of the deputy appellants, the panel held that no reasonable deputy in appellants' position would have believed that beating a prisoner to the point of serious injury, unconsciousness, or hospitalization solely to cause him pain was constitutionally permissible. The panel rejected the argument that the limits on the proper use of tasers were still unclear as of 2008, stating that once a jury has determined on the basis of sufficient evidence that prison officials maliciously and sadistically used more than de minimis force to cause harm, contemporary standards of decency, and thus the Eighth Amendment, always are violated.

         The panel held that the supervisor appellants-the sergeants who directed the extraction teams and their superiors-were not entitled to qualified immunity. The panel held that to the extent that these appellants stood by and observed the extractions but knowingly refused to terminate the deputies' unconstitutional acts, they were individually liable. The panel determined that ample evidence-including appellants' own testimony-supported the conclusion that appellants directed and observed most of the extraction teams. The panel held that although it was unclear whether Captain Cruz directly observed all of the extractions, a jury could reasonably find the requisite causal connection to hold Cruz liable for his own culpable action or inaction in the training, supervision, or control of his subordinates.

         The panel rejected the argument that the supervisors had immunity under state law and therefore could not be held liable under the Bane Act, California Civil Code § 52.1. The panel first held that California Civil Code § 820.2 does not shield government employees who use excessive force in carrying out their duties and that § 820.8 was inapplicable because appellees did not rely on vicarious liability. The panel concluded that in excessive force cases, including Eighth Amendment cases, § 52.1 does not require proof of coercion beyond that inherent in the underlying violation. Because appellees provided evidence sufficient to support a finding that they were subjected to excessive force in violation of the Eighth Amendment, they necessarily provided evidence sufficient to support a finding of a violation of their rights under the Bane Act.

         The panel held that the record amply supported the jury's verdict and the district court's ruling of municipal liability under Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978). The panel held that there was substantial evidence of repeated constitutional violations, of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department awareness of those violations, and of its failure to take any remedial action. The panel concluded that legal precedent permitted the jury to infer that the Sheriff's Department had adopted a custom or practice of condoning excessive force and that this culture of violence and impunity proximately caused the injuries inflicted on appellees.

         The panel held that the record did not require a finding of implied juror bias that allegedly arose from the professional activities of a juror's parents and the juror's personal friendships with other individuals having some involvement with the prison system. The panel upheld the award of $210, 000 in punitive damages award against the supervisory appellants, stating that the appellees proved egregious, even shocking, abuses of power. The panel further noted that the punitive damages awarded to each appellee, considered individually or together, were all far less than appellees' compensatory damages.

         Addressing appellants' claims of trial errors, the panel held that the district court acted within its broad discretion in declining to bifurcate the Monell claim and in excluding, under Federal Rule of Evidence 403, evidence of appellees' felony convictions and their gang membership. The panel further found no error in the district court's jury instructions and determined that the district court reasonably denied the application to compel live testimony for four appellees and non-party inmates.

         The panel affirmed the district court's attorney's fee award of $5, 378, 174.66. The panel held that the fee limit provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act do not apply to attorney's fees incurred in litigation under California Civil Code § 52.1. Finally, the panel found no fault in the district court's decision to apply a 2.0 multiplier, given the financial risk assumed by appellees' counsel, the difficulty of representing prisoners in an excessive force action against high-ranking jail officials who engage in aggressive opposition, and the opportunity costs that the years-long litigation in this case required. The panel noted that the district court had considered the burden to California's taxpayers that the fee award would represent, and found that the award was justified given the factors described above and the importance of civil rights suits in protecting the public against abuses at the hands of large or politically powerful defendants.

          OPINION

          W. FLETCHER, CIRCUIT JUDGE:

         In 2008, corrections staff at the Los Angeles County Men's Central Jail performed "cell extractions" in two high-security units in the course of quelling a disturbance. Appellees, five prisoners in the jail, were severely injured during the extractions. They brought suit in federal district court, alleging that appellants violated their rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. After a month-long trial, a jury found nineteen Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department ("LASD") employees and the County of Los Angeles liable for appellees' injuries under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 or California Civil Code § 52.1, or both. The jury awarded $740, 000 in compensatory damages and $210, 000 in punitive damages. The court awarded more than $5 million in attorney's fees.

         We affirm.

         I. Background

         A. Factual History

         Because this appeal follows a jury verdict in appellees' favor, we relate the facts in the light most favorable to them. See Castro v. Cty. of Los Angeles, 833 F.3d 1060, 1064 n.1 (9th Cir. 2016) (en banc).

         1. Cell Extractions

         On August 25, 2008, there was a disturbance in Modules 3100 and 3300 of the Los Angeles County Men's Central Jail, two high-security units in which prisoners were housed in single-person cells. Prisoners in the units lit fires, flooded toilets, shattered sinks, and threw shards of porcelain. Appellees described the disturbance as a "protest, " organized in response to repeated uses of excessive force by jail officials. Appellants described it as a "riot." The district court instructed the parties to use the term "incident" in front of the jury.

         To restore order, appellant Captain Daniel Cruz, unit commander, and appellant Lieutenant Christopher Blasnek, incident commander, planned a series of cell extractions. Under the stated terms of the plan, prisoners would have an opportunity to "cuff up" and leave their cells voluntarily. Prisoners who refused to cuff up would be forcibly extracted. Four LASD sergeants would lead four separate extraction teams of several deputies, with each deputy on a team having an assigned role. "Shield deputies, " covered with protective gear and carrying a shield, would enter first to pin the prisoner against a wall or to knock him to the ground. "Capture deputies" would follow close behind to restrain the prisoner. In the event that these deputies were unable to subdue a prisoner, "taser deputies" would administer electric shocks in "stun mode" until the prisoner was subdued. Official LASD policy required extraction teams to use the "lowest possible level" of force to "overcome only that level of resistance confronting the team." Extraction teams were prohibited from using force to punish prisoners. Appellees were among those who were forcibly extracted.

         Appellee Carlos Flores testified that, prior to his own extraction, he could hear cell extractions occurring in other cells. "[P]eople were crying out in pain, telling the deputies to stop. And I could hear the punching and kicking. And I could hear boots stomping. I could hear the deputies sometimes laughing." When deputies approached Flores's cell, "they were all wearing ski masks, I couldn't see their faces." A deputy shot into Flores's cell with a 40 mm "block gun, " but Flores was not hit because he was protecting himself with his mattress. Deputies then threw one or two concussion grenades into Flores's cell. They entered the cell, and one deputy used his shield to push Flores down onto his back. Five or six deputies then landed on top of Flores and the deputy. Several deputies held Flores down while others punched and kicked him in his face, head, and body. Deputies took turns, alternating between hitting and tasing him. "I could feel them stomping on my legs, trying to twist my leg." As one deputy was hitting Flores, "he was just telling me, 'Mother-Fucker. Mother-Fucker.' " "[T]hey were telling me to stop resisting, and . . . I was trying to say, 'I'm not resisting.' " "[T]hat's . . . a thing that the deputies do at the jail . . . . [T]hey'll beat inmates and say 'Stop resisting, stop resisting.' But it's like they know you're not resisting. . . . They just want to beat you up." After one of the tasers quit working, a deputy used the butt of the taser to hit Flores in the face and head. The repeated blows from fists, boots, and the taser broke Flores's nose and eye socket. "The last thing I felt before I woke up in the hospital room . . . was the whole right side of my face, just I felt the bone break because he . . . kept hitting me in the same spot." "It was the worst thing I ever felt. . . It was so painful that I just blacked out from the pain." In the hospital afterwards, "the doctor explained to me that my nose had been broken pretty bad and that he had to go in there and . . . cut off a piece of some cartilage in order to move the bone back in place or something like that." "[H]e explained to me . . . how my cheek bone holds my eye into place, and . . . the fracture to my . . . cheek bone had kind of like made my eye sunk down out of the socket. So he had to go in there and . . . put . . . two metal plates or something, and some screws, and . . . basically put my . . . eye socket back together. So that way, . . . my eye is not hanging at an odd angle out of my face."

         Appellee Juan Carlos Sanchez testified that before his extraction began a deputy appeared on his tier and stated, "You guys are going to get your ass beat." When an extraction team came to Sanchez's cell, a deputy shot at him with the block gun. He was not hit because he was protecting himself with his mattress. Deputies then threw a concussion grenade that exploded between his legs. Deputies entered the cell and threw Sanchez onto the floor on his stomach. A deputy handcuffed him with his hands behind his back. That deputy began "socking me in my face, punching me in my face, just punching me." Sanchez was struck in the face until he bled. Other deputies then came into the cell. "[T]hey come in and started kicking me, stomping me out, . . . just jumping on my legs." They broke Sanchez's left ankle. Deputies told Sanchez to "stop fighting, " but "I wasn't fighting." Deputies later told him to "stop resisting, " even though he was not resisting. Sanchez was dragged out of the cell unconscious. Sanchez regained consciousness outside the cell, still handcuffed and lying on his stomach. Now outside the cell, deputies kicked Sanchez in the face and tased him repeatedly. They pulled down his pants and "tasered me on my butt." At the hospital afterwards, doctors put permanent metal pins in Sanchez's broken ankle. Sanchez was in a wheelchair for three to four months, and was not able to walk without crutches or a walker for eight or nine months. At the time of trial four years later, Sanchez still walked with a limp. Sanchez had received a large "gash" above his right eye. The gash had healed by the time of trial, but it was "always tingling." Sanchez's right eye was swollen shut for two weeks. At the time of trial, vision in that eye was blurred.

         Appellee Erik Nunez testified that before entering his cell deputies shot him four or five times with large rubber or wooden bullets from a block gun. They then threw a concussion grenade into the cell. When they came into the cell, they pushed Nunez to the floor. Nunez "immediately . . . began feeling blows." Deputies kicked him with "hard boot[s]" on his face, back, and sides. Deputies hit Nunez with their fists and jumped on his back. Nunez tried to cover his head to protect himself, but deputies grabbed his arms and continued to beat him. "I heard them saying . . . the whole time I was on the floor, 'Stop resisting' until the moment I came out of the cell." Nunez testified that this was typical: "[Y]ou always hear them say, 'Stop resisting, " and [inmates] are not even resisting. . . . That's their justification." Deputies tased Nunez repeatedly. "I kept getting tasered, and I was hoping that I would pass out. But . . . it was like . . . I would come right back to it with the taser." "[A]fter the first tase, I was already out of it, . . . and then he just kept tasing and tasing me." "This guy, he's laughing, the guy that's tasing me. He grabbed it, and he put it . . . [b]etween my butt cheeks, and he's tasing me, and he's laughing." On a scale of one to ten, Nunez rated his pain at eleven. The tasing left marks on Nunez's skin-"[b]lack marks, like wounds, like two holes, like burn marks, like burned skin."

         Appellee Juan Trinidad testified that he heard other cell extractions before deputies came to his cell. "You could hear all the pain. People are screaming and everything else." "[Y]ou hear the same thing as usual, 'Stop resisting, ' and they keep beating [the inmates]." "I already figured I'm going to get hurt. I'm going to get hurt real bad." Before entering Trinidad's cell, deputies shot into the cell ten or more balls filled with pepper spray. Deputies then shot into the cell with a block gun. One of the bullets from the block gun broke Trinidad's right hand; one hit him directly in the chest; and one ricocheted and hit him in the shoulder. Deputies then threw a concussion grenade into the cell. Before deputies entered his cell, Trinidad heard a female deputy say, "Well, get that mother fucker." When the deputies entered the cell, Trinidad lay face down on his mattress, trying to protect himself by "hid[ing] my face in between the floor and the table." Deputies "ran in and they start beating me. One jumped on my back and the other one just started hitting me, and they start tasing me." "[O]ne was trying to break my ankle." Approximately five deputies were on top of Trinidad. One deputy was twisting his already-broken right hand and tasing him. Another deputy "was twisting my ankles." "They told me to stop resisting . . . . I was not [resisting] because one deputy . . . had my right hand and he's twisting. . . . I can't resist." Trinidad heard a deputy say, "The battery's going dead. Give me another taser." After Trinidad was handcuffed, deputies continued to beat and tase him. He faded in and out of consciousness throughout the extraction. On a scale of one to ten, Trinidad rated the pain from the taser a ten. Trinidad's back was broken in several places. He was transported to the hospital in a neck brace, where he was treated for head, hand, and back injuries.

         Appellee Heriberto Rodriguez testified that when deputies came to his cell, he was sitting on his toilet holding his mattress in front of him for protection. Deputies used a block gun to fire four shots, hitting his ankles. They then threw a concussion grenade into the cell. When deputies came into the cell, they yanked the mattress away and hit Rodriguez twice in the face. Rodriguez wears glasses. He put his hands to his face and dropped to the floor. When Rodriguez was face down on the cell floor, someone was hitting his head. A deputy pulled his hand away from his face and twisted his arm. "He was trying to snap it like a broomstick. . . . [H]e was saying things like, 'You mother fucker. You mother fucker.' " "I was watching my elbow bending in an awkward position. I've never seen it bend that way." At the time of trial, four years later, Rodriguez's elbow would not extend to a straight and locked position. Deputies handcuffed Rodriguez and continued to beat him. "Someone dropped a knee or a leg or something on my back. I was still being hit on the back of my head." He was told to "stop fighting, " even though he was already handcuffed and was not struggling. Rodriguez was tased repeatedly, "in my armpits, my fingertips, the back of my neck . . . . I was tasered my legs [sic], and the bottom of my feet." Rodriguez testified further, "I was laying down cuffed, and I felt something probing my anus. And [the taser] pushed, it pushed, and it went down, and then it pushed, and then it was just a jolt." It went to "the part between the testicles and the anus[.]" On a scale of 1 to 100, Rodriguez rated his pain from the taser a 100.

         2. Missing Videotapes

         LASD policy required staff to videotape cell extractions in their entirety and to preserve the videotapes afterwards. During discovery in this case, appellants produced forty-one videotapes of the cell extractions. These videotapes show almost none of the activity that took place inside the cells. Expert witness Steve Martin reviewed all of the videotapes produced by appellants, looking for the "hard-impact strikes" described by appellants in their post-extraction reports and by appellees. "Remarkably, " Martin testified, the videotapes showed "not a single [hard-impact] strike[.]" "[N]ot a single one of those hundred-plus strikes was captured on video." On the audio of many of the videotapes, deputies can be heard saying "stop fighting." However, none of the videotapes that were produced in discovery shows the inmates at the time this is being said, making it impossible to see whether the inmates were, in fact, fighting.

         Appellees' evidence at trial showed that deputies took at least five videotapes of cell extractions that were not produced in discovery. Appellees' evidence showed that those videotapes were taken in a manner that would likely have shown the actual beatings and tasing of the inmates. For example, one of the videotapes that was produced was taken during the extraction of appellee Nunez. The videotape shows another deputy videotaping Nunez's extraction from a vantage point that would likely have shown him being beaten and tased, and that would likely have shown whether he was fighting or resisting at the time. That videotape was not produced by appellants.

         At trial, appellants denied "intentionally destroy[ing], misplac[ing], or eras[ing]" the missing videotapes. But appellants provided no explanation for why those videotapes, and only those videotapes, were missing.

         B. Procedural History

         Appellees brought suit against twenty-eight individual defendants and the County of Los Angeles under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and California Civil Code § 52.1. Appellees Flores, Sanchez, Nunez, and Trinidad contended that the cell extractions violated their right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Appellee Rodriguez, who at the time of the cell extraction was a pre-trial detainee, brought suit under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. See City of Revere v. Mass. Gen. Hosp., 463 U.S. 239, 244 (1983).

         1. Jury Instructions

         The same jury instructions were used for all five appellees, and the parties do not distinguish among them on appeal. After the trial in this case, the Supreme Court clarified that "the appropriate standard for a pretrial detainee's excessive force claim [under the Fourteenth Amendment] is solely an objective one." Kingsley v. Hendrickson, 135 S.Ct. 2466, 2473 (2015). In contrast, a convicted prisoner's excessive force claim under the Eighth Amendment requires a subjective inquiry into "whether force was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously and sadistically to cause harm." Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 7 (1992). The jury instructions for appellee Rodriguez's Fourteenth Amendment claim erroneously required him, as a pretrial detainee, to prove both the objective unreasonableness of the appellants' force (that "defendants used excessive and unnecessary force under all of the circumstances") and appellants' subjective intent (that "defendants acted maliciously and sadistically for the purpose of causing harm"). Because Rodriguez did not argue that this instruction was erroneous, the argument is forfeited. See Castro, 833 F.3d at1071-72. In any event, the error was harmless because Rodriguez prevailed at trial despite having to prove the additional subjective element. Cf. Kingsley, 135 S.Ct. at 2477; Clement v. Gomez, 298 F.3d 898, 903 (9th Cir. 2002) (explaining that the Eighth Amendment's subjective inquiry involves a "heightened standard" that "necessarily involves a more culpable mental state than that required for excessive force claims arising under the Fourth Amendment's unreasonable seizures restriction").

         2. Interlocutory Appeal and Chuman motion

         Prior to trial, appellants moved for summary judgment based on qualified immunity. The district court denied the motions. The extraction team supervisors, the "taser deputies, " and some of the "shield" and "capture deputies" filed an interlocutory appeal from the denial, arguing that they were entitled to qualified immunity even assuming the facts in the light most favorable to the appellees. We issued an order to show cause why the appeal should not be dismissed under Johnson v. Jones, 515 U.S. 304, 307 (1995).

         While the interlocutory appeal was pending in our court, appellees moved in the district court to certify the interlocutory appeal as frivolous under Chuman v. Wright, 960 F.2d 104, 105 (9th Cir. 1992). The district court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to decide the Chuman motion during the pendency of the appeal, and denied the motion on that ground. Then, while the appeal was still pending and over appellants' objection, the district court ordered that the case proceed to trial on all claims against all defendants. Appellants filed an emergency motion for a stay in our court, which we denied. The case then went to trial.

         3. Jury Selection

         During and immediately following jury selection, appellants contended that Juror Number 5 ("S.M.") was impliedly biased and should be excused for cause. During voir dire, S.M. stated that his mother was a law professor. He stated further that he had family and personal friends who were engaged in activities related to challenging conditions in Los Angeles County jails or who had had negative experiences with law enforcement. One of his friends was general counsel to the Citizens' Commission on Jail Violence ("CCJV") formed by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. He described the friend only as the "head of the Los Angeles Police Commission." A CCJV report was later introduced at trial to support Monell liability. There is no evidence that S.M. was aware during voir dire of any connection between his friend and the CCJV report that would be used at trial. S.M. later testified that he had not known that the friend was involved in the CCJV, and that he had not spoken with the friend about "any jail-related commissions." S.M. was also a friend of an exoneree whom appellees' counsel's firm represented. At voir dire, S.M. told the court that he was not sure whether that friend was pursuing a civil case and, if so, who was representing the friend. S.M. also told the court he thought his mother was a friend of appellees' counsel. Appellees' counsel informed the court that he had at most a professional relationship with S.M.'s mother. Appellees had already used all of their peremptory challenges. Their counsel moved to excuse S.M. for cause. The court denied the motion.

         The next day, after he had been seated on the jury, S.M. submitted a note to the judge stating that his father was currently vice-president of the ACLU Foundation of Southern California and had previously served as president. S.M. explained that he had forgotten the connection during voir dire because his father's "primary work" was in entertainment law, and because his father spent comparatively little time doing pro bono work for the ACLU Foundation. In response to questioning, S.M. stated that he and his family members had discussed "issues of jail inmates" during the previous six months and that he and his family members agreed that prisoners "certainly need[] protection of their civil rights and constitutional rights . . . despite the fact they are incarcerated." S.M. stated, however, that he was not sure whether any of these discussions concerned abuses on the part of LASD, and stated that his father had not talked to him about litigation related to prisoners' rights. Appellants again moved to excuse S.M. for cause. The court again denied the motion. S.M. became the jury foreperson.

         Later, near the time that the case was submitted to the jury, S.M.'s mother wrote an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times advocating for civilian oversight of LASD, in part because of the conditions in the county jails. Appellants again moved to remove S.M. from the jury. The court denied the motion.

         4. Trial

         With respect to individual liability, appellees' testimony at trial is summarized above. Non-party inmates testified to having been subjected to similar treatment during their cell extractions. Appellants testified that their use of force was justified under the circumstances, given the violent behavior of appellees and their fellow inmates prior to the extractions as well as the risks involved in extracting high security inmates.

         With respect to county liability, appellees presented evidence that the county had a custom or policy of ignoring excessive force used by jail officials, thereby creating a jail culture that proximately caused the beatings and tasing to which appellees were subjected. Appellees submitted the report, mentioned above, by the CCJV. The CCJV report concluded, with respect to the Men's Central Jail, that "senior management failed to investigate the excessive use of force problems" at the jail; that "[s]everal key department leaders ignored deputy aggression and discouraged discipline" at the jail; and that senior jail officials had not taken steps to investigate approximately one hundred use-of-force allegations. The report recounted Department-wide deficiencies in practices and policies governing use of force, excessive force investigations, and discipline for using excessive force. Appellees presented testimony from appellant Cruz's former supervisor, Commander Robert Olmsted. Olmsted testified that he had investigated use-of-force incidents at the jail and had found a major increase in such incidents during Cruz's tenure. Olmstead's investigation uncovered problems in investigating and reporting use-of-force incidents, and in approval of uses of force. Olmstead ...


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