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Lawsuit against Kern County for Plea Mill

Posted by Sara Cooper | Jun 23, 2023 | 0 Comments

Last May, the United Farm Workers Foundation and ACLU Northern California filed a lawsuit with Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP and Martínez Aguilasocho Law, Inc. to go against the County of Kern and Kern County Supreme Court, for systematically denying poor misdemeanor defendants their constitutional rights to counsel and due process.

This plea mill includes probation officers going beyond their position of authority and intimidating misdemeanor defendants to give into guilty plea offers without the presence of counsel. It progresses to where defendants' arraignments would end swiftly, and judges accepting these unauthorized plea deals. Predominantly impacting immigrants and people of color in Kern County, less than 5% of misdemeanor defendants were represented by counsel at their arraignment, and roughly 60% of all defendants plead guilty at their first court appearance according to the UFW Foundation of California.

Every person in this nation has the right to counsel and due process, from the start to your court proceedings after arrest. The risks of lack of access to counsel leads to risks of losing the right to drive, separation from their families, and convicted of criminal charges that impact the lives of many vulnerable individuals and their communities. This unconstitutional problem that has been happening without any evaluation is now enforcing a change in the justice system.

The lawsuit is in accordance to the introduced bill to state lawmakers called AB 1209, where legal counsel would be required to a defendant before their first court appearance. Another key component of the bill includes 3 complete telephone calls offered upon arrest, 2 additional calls if a caretaker or guardian.

For more information on this lawsuit, please check out these links:

News Report: ACLU and UFW Foundation Sues Kern County for Operating Plea Mill - The UFW Foundation

AB 1209 (held under submission): Bill Text: CA AB1209 | 2023-2024 | Regular Session | Amended | LegiScan

ACLU Northern California website: The ACLU of Northern California (

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