Stauring v. Baca

Stauring v. Baca, filed in December 2003, charges that the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department violates the First Amendment rights of religious volunteers working at the Los Angeles county jail. The suit was filed on behalf of Javier Stauring, a Los Angeles chaplain honored in November 2003, by Human Rights Watch for his efforts to change conditions for juveniles incarcerated at the facility. Human Rights Watch is an international organization dedicated to the protection of human rights.


The lawsuit further changes that Sheriff LeRoy Baca barred Chaplain Stauring from ministering to youth in the jail because he criticized the Sheriff’s treatment of youth at the facility. The lawsuit seeks to overturn policies that prohibit religious volunteers from speaking up without prior approval of the Sheriff’s Department and to reinstate Chaplain Stauring’s access to youth in the jail.


Stauring was restricted from the jail last June after he unveiled disturbing conditions there on the heels of two suicide attempts by youth prisoners and participated in a demonstration that called for changes to the harsh detention conditions at the jail. Immediately after revoking Chaplain Stauring’s access, the Sheriff issued a policy prohibiting chaplains and other volunteers form discussing the operation of the jail with the media without prior approval from the jail administration.


On March 8, in a mediation conference, the department agreed to reinstate Stauring’s credentials and clarified its policies on the volunteers who work in the jail system.


Previously, volunteers were flatly prohibited from criticizing any aspect of the Sheriff’s Department. The revised rule only prohibits criticism in the presence of inmates.


Likewise, volunteers no longer need written approval to speak about custody operations — only those that “may jeopardize the safety and security of the facility, staff and inmates.”


Chaplain Stauring was represented by the Youth Law Center and Pillsbury Winthrop.