The region’s most prominent civil rights experts, practitioners and law enforcement officials gathered at the University of La Verne College of Law’s civil rights symposium, discussing and debating issues such as civilian oversight of police departments, intermediate force, and dealing with emotionally disturbed people and minors.
About 100 people – attorneys, students and others – attended the 2013 Section 1983 Civil Rights Symposium at the Ayres Hotel & Suites in Ontario on Feb. 7 and 8. La Verne Law invited 21 experts to offer their insights.
Section 1983 (42 U.S.C. Section 1983) is the federal statute that allows individuals to bring charges against government agencies for alleged discrimination, abuse, property seizure and abridgement of free speech.
Speakers included Erwin Chemerinksy, Founding Dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law, Michael Gennaco, Chief Attorney, County of Los Angeles Office of Independent Review and former chief of the Civil Rights Section for the Office of the United States Attorney and the Honorable David T. Bristow, United States Magistrate Judge, U.S. District Court, Central District.
The symposium emphasized case law and legal strategies and covered the basics of civil rights litigation, including pleading requirements and the meaning of “under the color of the law.” Several panels focused on law enforcement’s responsibilities and the civil rights of those they are hired to protect and serve.
Eugene P. Ramirez, founding member of the law firm Manning & Kass, Ellrod, Ramirez, Trester LLP, talked about the use of intermediate force. Ramirez advises public entities on the issues of use of force, canine and SWAT issues and policies and procedures.
“There are so many issues in these cases,” Ramirez said in a presentation that focused on police training, court rulings, dealing with emotionally and mentally ill people and the expectations that society places on police officers.
“We all read the articles about law enforcement and what they have to deal with daily,” he said.
Attorneys Kristina Doan Gruenberg and Ulysses Aguayo work at a Los Angeles law firm, where they handle civil rights litigation involving the Department of Corrections. Both said they found Chemerinsky’s presentation, “Recent Developments Regarding Immunities for Section 1983 Claims” to be particularly helpful.
Daniel Hill, who works as a paralegal in San Bernardino County and is preparing to take the California Bar Examination, also was impressed by the caliber of the symposium.
“I think they picked some excellent speakers. They’re so well-known,” Hill said.
Events such as the symposium are important because they bring together practitioners in an environment conducive to open dialogue to discuss important legal topics, said Veronica Randazzo, Chief Executive Editor of the La Verne Law Review, which hosted the event.
Speakers addressing the civilian oversight of police departments talked about events that trigger such oversight, models of oversight and how civilian oversight affects the relationship between police officers and the citizens they serve.
Another discussion centered on Section 1983 and the First Amendment, concentrating on social media, public employee speech and the Occupy Movement.