Jail Conditions Reports Released After FAC Joins Press and Community Members to Challenge Sealing

Represented by Public Justice, in July 2023 FAC challenged the sealing of federal court records in Hernandez v. County of Monterey, a class action lawsuit filed in 2013 to address systemic problems at the Monterey County jail.

After the Hernandez case was settled in 2015, the court appointed monitors to assess compliance. When the plaintiffs moved to enforce the settlement in 2023, they relied on the monitors’ reports to argue that “persistent noncompliance” with the settlement has resulted “a death rate at the Jail more than twice the national average and a suicide rate more than three times the average for California jails…. The resulting deficiencies in medical, mental health, and dental care cause daily pain and suffering, including serious medical and dental complications, untreated chronic illnesses, suicide attempts, and deaths.” 

Over plaintiffs’ objection, the reports were initially filed under seal, depriving the press and public of critical information. Joined by the Monterey County Weekly and Patricia Ramirez, Jennifer Ramirez, Rafael Ramirez, Yvette Pajas, Xavier Pajas, and Janel Pajas, family members of persons who died in the jail, FAC argued that the reports must be made public because of the compelling public interest in evaluating the care provided to incarcerated people.

After the district court agreed that the reports must be unsealed and the Ninth Circuit refused to put that order on hold, the reports were released with limited redactions. As the Monterey County Weekly reported, the reports and other documents provide “unprecedented insight into the jail’s treatment of the people housed there,” and the “public now has its clearest picture yet of medical and mental health care conditions at Monterey County Jail.” 

See the motion to unseal below: