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The Bane Act – Upholding Civil Rights in California

Introduction to the Bane Act

The Tom Bane Civil Rights Act, commonly referred to as the Bane Act, is an essential piece of legislation that safeguards individuals from any interference with their constitutional or statutory rights, whether on a federal or state level. This robust protection mechanism extends to all individuals and covers any potential violations committed by law enforcement officers.

Scope of the Bane Act

The Bane Act’s scope extends beyond its federal counterparts, like Section 1983 and Monell claims, as it incorporates rights protected under the California Constitution and California laws. This comprehensive coverage makes it a potent tool in the fight for civil rights in California.

Cal. Civ. Code § 52.1 serves as the legal foundation for the Bane Act.

Essence of a Bane Act Claim

A Bane Act claim revolves around the premise that a defendant, using threats, intimidation, or coercion, either attempted to prevent the plaintiff from exercising their legal rights or forced the plaintiff into an action not required under the law. (Austin B. v. Escondido Union Sch. Dist. (2007) 149 Cal.App.4th 860, 883.)

Interestingly, the Bane Act does not necessitate an actual violation. Even an attempted violation can give rise to liability, broadening its potential application.

Legal Remedies Under the Bane Act

For those whose rights have been infringed upon by means of threats, intimidation, or coercion, the Bane Act allows them to initiate and prosecute a civil lawsuit seeking damages, injunctive relief, and other appropriate equitable relief. This right to legal recourse aims to protect the peaceful exercise or enjoyment of secured rights (Civ. Code § 52.1).

The Bane Act offers a range of relief, including actual damages, statutory damages (including civil penalties), exemplary damages, and attorney’s fees. (Civ. Code § 52.)

Essential Factual Elements for a Bane Act Claim

To establish a successful Bane Act claim, the plaintiff must prove the following, as outlined in CACI Jury Instructions 3066:

  1. The defendant intentionally interfered or attempted to interfere with the plaintiff’s civil rights by threats, intimidation, or coercion. This includes making threats of violence, acting violently, or both, against the plaintiff or their property.
  2. The plaintiff was harmed.
  3. The defendant’s conduct was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff’s harm.

Recent Changes and Conclusion

As of January 1, 2022, the scope of the Bane Act has been further expanded. Now, individuals can bring claims under California law against police and custodial officers for malicious prosecution or prisoner injuries. This change has removed the previously existing immunities against such claims under the Act, marking a significant step towards greater accountability and justice.

In conclusion, the Bane Act remains a powerful instrument in California, ensuring that individuals can exercise their constitutional and statutory rights without fear of intimidation or coercion. Its broad scope and the remedies it offers make it a cornerstone of civil rights in the state.