Civil rights march for Anastacio Hernandez Rojas

Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

Speaking For The Voiceless, Defending the Powerless

Civil and Civil Rights Practice

Iredale and Yoo have successfully tried and settled civil rights cases involving violations of the First, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments by government officials, including cases of: excessive force; unlawful arrest; false imprisonment; police retaliation for exercise of First Amendment rights; mistreatment of peaceful protesters; police brutality, harassment, and misconduct; personal injury; and wrongful death. 

The law firm represents victims of serious police misconduct or brutality who have suffered extensive and significant injuries, as well as the families of individuals wrongfully killed by law enforcement.

Julia Yoo has a special focus on protecting the civil rights of two particular groups of people: 1) peaceful protesters exercising their First Amendment rights; and 2) individuals incarcerated in county jails or state or federal prisons. Ms. Yoo has represented individuals who were engaged in peaceful protest, but were unlawfully detained, arrested, or otherwise harmed by police officers.  She also represents inmates who have been sexually assaulted by correctional officers and litigated claims against jail and prison officials for failure to provide adequate medical care.   

Vindicating Individuals’ Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

  • Civil rights violations can take several forms:
  • Excessive force leading to major injury or wrongful death
  • False arrest and malicious prosecution without probable cause
  • Assaults on detained or incarcerated persons, including sexual assaults 
  • Denial of medical care for detained or incarcerated persons
  • Retaliation for exercise of First Amendment rights of free speech, including retaliatory arrests and unlawful force used against peaceful protesters;
  • Police Misconduct Cases

It is important for victims of police misconduct to understand that the law is deferential to government officials. Law enforcement officers are entitled to a special protection known as "qualified immunity." This immunity gives law enforcement officers broad discretion in their conduct as they perform their duties.  

Not every shove, bump or curse is going to be the basis for successful legal action against the police. A claim alleging violations of the Fourth, Fifth, or Fourteenth Amendment must have severe results — serious injury, death or wrongful conviction — to have a chance at success. In such cases, the actions of the law enforcement officers must be truly outrageous and the illegality, or unconstitutionality, of the officers’ conduct must be “clearly established” by caselaw.  

Fortunately, the law imposes a less onerous burden on a plaintiff claiming violations of his/her First Amendment rights. Regardless, everyone, including the police and federal law enforcement agents, must obey the law, including that most important rule of law, the Constitution. When government officials violate the Constitution, the rule of law requires that they be held responsible for their actions.


San Diego County will pay almost $8 million to man gravely injured in sheriff’s custody

The federal lawsuit that sparked a public fight over the San Diego sheriff’s refusal to release internal reports on jail deaths and other incidents has settled, with the county agreeing to pay almost $8 million to a man who was gravely injured in the Central Jail five years ago. The settlement with Frankie Greer — an Army vet, musician, and mechanical engineer before his injury — is the latest multimillion-dollar payout to a person who was injured or died while in the sheriff’s custody.

MTS, contractor to pay $5.5M to family of San Diego man who died in custody in 2019

he mother of a 24-year-old mentally ill man who died after San Diego trolley security officers held him down — with a knee on his neck for roughly six minutes — agreed to settle with the agency and its security contractor for $5.5 million, officials announced Monday.

Voice of San Diego: Obscure Sheriff’s Review Board Gets New Scrutiny in Court

The department’s Critical Incident Review Board has been thrust to the center of a federal lawsuit brought by the family of a man with schizophrenia who died after an altercation with deputies at a county jail in 2018. “He definitely needed help. But for some reason, the response was to use overwhelming physical force and beat him to death to get him help,” said Grace Jun, an attorney for the Silva famil

In latest lawsuit against sheriff and county, inmate’s family alleges wrongful death, deliberate indifference

“No one provided medical care,” states the suit filed Monday against Sheriff Bill Gore, San Diego County and others. “Approximately one hour later, the deputies conducting their rounds found Elisa nonresponsive in her cell. “Elisa Serna died on the floor of her jail cell.”

$6 Million Jury Verdict in San Diego Police Misconduct Suit

In July of 2015, Rebecca Brown filed a lawsuit against the SDPD on behalf of her late husband. Nearly five years later, on February 3, 2020, Rebecca’s case was finally heard in court. The jury ruled in Rebecca’s favor, rewarding her compensatory damages that totaled $6 million and punitive damages against Lambert in the amount of $50,000.

Jury awards $6 million to widow of criminalist who committed suicide during murder investigation

'The widow of a retired police criminalist who committed suicide while under investigation in a 30-year-old murder case was awarded $6 million by a federal jury in San Diego Friday afternoon.'

'Iredale said Lambert disregarded Brown’s mental health and kept the items because he wanted a confession that would crack the case and make the detective a star in the cold-case unit. “You didn’t get a confession,” Iredale said. “You got a suicide.”'

Police suspected a crime lab technician of murder. Their mistake led him to hang himself.

On an August night in 1984, a 14-year-old girl named Claire Hough went for a walk on the beach with a portable radio and a pack of cigarettes. She never came home. The next morning, a man found her body, strangled and mutilated.

Four prisoners dead in six weeks: the crisis unfolding in San Diego county jails

Four prisoners dead in six weeks: the crisis unfolding in San Diego county jails

Four deaths in six weeks is troubling, Aaron Fischer, an attorney with Disability Rights California who co-wrote last year’s report, told the Guardian in response to the latest incidents. “When someone dies by suicide in a system’s highest level of care, there is enormous cause for concern about whether the system is capable of keeping people safe,” Fischer said.

The report found the San Diego jails struggled with an over-incarceration of people with mental health-related disabilities, failed to provide adequate mental health treatment to inmates, did not have in place appropriate suicide prevention practices and lacked oversight.

Deaths in San Diego county jails have prompted at least a dozen lawsuits since 2008 and more than $7m in settlements – yet critics say there have been few reforms.

Attorneys such as Julia Yoo, whose firm Iredale & Yoo has represented families in several lawsuits, wonders if the sheriff’s department is learning from previous incidents.

Yoo’s law firm is currently handling two such cases. In one, a man diagnosed with schizophrenia, whose illness caused him to drink water uncontrollably, died of water intoxication after the jail ignored warnings to monitor his water intake. In another case, a schizophrenic man was Tasered four times and suffered cardiac arrest after deputies pinned him to the ground.

“It seems like there are ways for the sheriff’s department to fix the problem,” Yoo said, “but they don’t, and here we go again.”

Newly unsealed records show lapses in treatment, oversight in San Diego County jails

When the San Diego Sheriff’s Department signed a five-year, $21 million agreement for psychiatric care in its jails, it picked a provider with no track record of delivering mental health services to inmates.

Dozens of inmates died over the 27 months that CPMG was responsible for mental health care inside the county jail system, according to Sheriff’s Department records.

The Mannis deposition was unsealed last week, along with hundreds of pages of other documents in a civil case filed by the family of Ruben Nunez, a San Diego Central Jail inmate who died from water intoxication in the jail even though his medical record included multiple warnings that he needed to be kept away from water.

Julia Yoo, a partner in the law firm representing the Nunez family, said the Sheriff’s Department should learn from the lapses in treatment for inmates and in oversight of contractors.

San Diego County jail’s leading mortality rate is costing county millions of dollars in lawsuit payouts

At least 140 people have died in San Diego County jails since 2009, the year Bill Gore took over as sheriff. That’s an average higher than one inmate per month, every month, over the past 10 years. A six-month investigation by The San Diego Union-Tribune shows that the county’s jail mortality rate is the highest among California’s largest county jail systems. The grim history shows no sign of waning.

“A measure of society is how we treat our most vulnerable. By that measure, San Diego County is failing miserably,” said Julia Yoo, a San Diego attorney who has sued the sheriff repeatedly on behalf of deceased inmates’ families.

Estate of Anastacio Hernandez Rojas et al. v. United States of America et al.

At the San Ysidro border crossing, at least fourteen federal law enfocement officers surrounded Anastacio Hernandez-Rojas, a father of five. One officer tased him while he lay on the ground in handcuffs, while others restrained Anastacio with their body weight and blows. Anastacio died. His children brought suit for wrongful death against the individual agents and federal government. After almost seven years of litigation, the government paid the family $1 million.

Kevin Brown accused of murder

A retired San Diego police lab technician became the subject of a misguided police department homicide investigation. Homicide detectives ignoring the likehood of DNA lab contamination executed a warrant based on material omissions and false statements. Though the facts of this case are unique, the failures that drove Brown to suicide aren’t. Tunnel-visioned investigators, shoddy crime lab work and public officials who can’t bring themselves to admit that the system sometimes makes mistakes are unfortunately all too common.

Forgotten for days in a DEA holding cell, UCSD student Daniel Chong wins a $4.1 million settlement

Daniel was placed in a 5 feet by 10 feet holding cell with no windows, sink, toilet, or panic button in case of emergency. He remained forgotten in the holding cell, handcuffed, for five days.

San Diego County has agreed to pay $2.3 million to the family of Bernard Victorianne who died in San Diego's Central Jail in 2012 from a drug overdose

The Citizen’s Law Enforcement Review Board (CLERB) made seven findings that deputies were guilty of misconduct for failing to follow prisoner count and other procedures, lying during a subsequent investigation and failing to properly investigate the death.

$1 million dollar settlement in teen death against Customs and Border Patrol

Cruz Velazquez, a 16 year old Mexican student, was twice victimized. Drug smugglers threatened his family to convince him to cross two bottles containing contraband into the U.S. At the border, two CBP officers, knowing that the bottles likely contained liquid methamphetamine, diverted themselves by toying with the frightened boy. After asking what was in the bottles, and being told "juice," they told Cruz to "prove it" by drinking. The boy did. He died within an hour, when his temperature shot to 105 degrees, his family won compensation of $1 million.

National City paid $1.5 million to a man accidentally shot in the arm by a police officer

On March 10, 2015, Jesus Flores was driving his car when he was stopped by a National City police officer for a missing license plate.

$3 million dollar settlement case where deputy's repeated Taser shots cost man his legs

Eugene Iredale, the Criminal Defense Attorney working on the case, told NBC 7 that Marcial Torres agreed to accept $3 million in damages to settle his lawsuit against the county.

Jury Award Over $2 Million for Wrongful Detention and Excessive Force

A federal jury awarded over $2 million to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Sergio Lopez, finding that members of the Chula Vista Police Department committed assault and battery against him.