Two deputy district attorneys are suing Los Angeles County, alleging they were demoted from their positions as bureau directors for opposing reform directives implemented by District Attorney George Gascón.
Prosecutors Maria Ramirez and Victor Rodriguez brought the lawsuit Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court, seeking unspecified damages. A representative for the District Attorney’s Office could not be immediately reached for comment.
“Both plaintiffs were directors of bureaus and were removed from their positions in retaliation for disclosing violations of law and/or refusing to violate law concerning unlawful practices and policies of … George Gascón and/or other high officials in the Gascón administration,” the suit states.
Ramirez is the former director of the Bureau of Specialized Prosecutions and Rodriguez once headed the Bureau of Branch and Area Region II and part of Area Region I. Both were demoted to the position of head deputy, the suit states. The plaintiffs each have more than 30 years of service in the District Attorney’s Office and aspired to be assistant district attorneys, according to their suit.
The District Attorney’s Office has six bureau directors, each of whom reports to an assistant district attorney. Bureau directors provide support and supervision to head deputies, assistant head deputies, deputies in charge, special assistants and management secretaries. When Gascón was sworn into office in December 2020, he implemented a directive that “effectively abolished the ability of prosecutors to file certain crimes against juveniles, if the crime also qualified as a strike,” the suit states.
“Ramirez disclosed to District Attorney George Gascón and his immediate staff that his Youth Justice Directive was unlawful … and would cause untruthful charging practices by line prosecutors, violating their ethical obligations when following the directives,” the suit states.
Ramirez told Gascón and others in his administration about an “unethical and unlawful disposition of a case through a backroom deal” that shortened the life sentence of a murderer to a seven-year prison term, according to the suit. Ramirez was demoted last Sept. 7 “because of her disclosures and refusals to violate the law,” the suit states.
In March 2021, Gascón invited Rodriguez to a meeting to discuss the possible prosecution of officers who were involved in an officer-involved- shooting that ended in the death of two people, the suit states. Others in the meeting, including a first-year law student, appeared ready to prosecute the officers, the suit states.
“Rodriguez was appalled by the discussion that was taking place since there was insufficient evidence that the officers had committed a crime,” the suit states.
Rodriguez was not against a further investigation to see if a filing was warranted, but he told the group that under the facts presented there was not probable cause for a prosecution, the suit states. Some time after the meeting, Gascón complained to the District Attorney’s Office’s then-chief of staff that management “followed the law too much,” the suit alleges.
Last June, Rodriguez defended a subordinate who opposed the resentencing of a violent inmate, putting her at odds with Gascón’s “unlawful blanket policy demanding that prosecutors not provide the court with negative information in resentencing hearings,” the suit states. Rodriguez emphasized that the subordinate’s actions were correct and complied with her legal and ethical obligations, the suit states.
Rodriguez was demoted to a head deputy on the same day as Ramirez, while his subordinate was demoted to a filing deputy, according to the suit.
The demotions have caused both plaintiffs emotional distress and have negatively impacted their chances of advancing in the District Attorney’s Office, the suit states.