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Coalition of Cities Supports Legal Challenge to Inmate Release

Post Date:12/23/2020 2:32 pm

On December 24, Newport Beach, joined by 20 other Orange County cities, filed a legal brief supporting Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes’ challenge to a court order mandating the release of over 1,000 inmates.

This legal challenge was filed in response to a December 11 order by the Orange County Superior Court to release up to half of the total inmate population from the Orange County jail, in a declared effort to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. If the order stands, the inmates could be released in early January.

The Newport Beach City Council on Friday, December 18, voted unanimously to support Sheriff Barnes in his legal challenge to this court order. Since Friday, the following cities voted to join the effort: Cypress, Dana Point, Garden Grove, La Habra, Laguna Beach, Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel, Lake Forest, Huntington Beach, Mission Viejo, Orange, Placentia, Rancho Santa Margarita, San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, Stanton, Westminster, Tustin, Yorba Linda and Villa Park.

The amicus brief filed Thursday contends that the trial court’s ruling did not provide adequate deference to the discretion provided to the duly-elected Sheriff Barnes under the controlling legal authorities. Instead, the trial court improperly gave itself the discretion properly afforded Sheriff Barnes. That kind of discretion requires careful analysis of risk factors, such as the potential for recidivism and risk to known victims and potential victims. Such an analysis was lacking in the trial court’s order.

Further, Sheriff Barnes has already taken significant action to reduce the jail population by releasing nonviolent offenders and medically vulnerable inmates during 2020. The brief argues that the focus on an inmate potentially catching COVID inside the jail fails to consider an inmate’s chances of catching COVID outside the jail too. The news is replete with stories showing the recent and significant increased risk of catching COVID by law-abiding citizens.

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COVID-19 Coronavirus

The Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is responding to an outbreak of respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) coronavirus that was first detected in China and has now been detected globally. The virus has been named “SARS-CoV-2” and the disease it causes has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated “COVID-19”).

The City of Newport Beach is working with federal, state, and local partners including the CDC, the OC Health Care Agency (OCHCA), and health care providers to prepare and appropriately care for people who may be at risk for illness associated with COVID-19 or who have tested positive for COVID-19. This is a rapidly changing situation, and we will share more as we are updated from our colleagues at the local, state and/or federal level.

Help Prevent the Spread of Coronavirus

  • The Governor of California enacted an Executive Order for all individuals living in the State of California to stay home or at their place of residence except for essential needs
  • It is imperative for everyone to practice social distancing by keeping at least six feet away from others when performing essential need activities outside of your homes.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you get sick with influenza, the CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to limit spreading the infection.
  • For more information, please visit the following websites:


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