California Bill to Amend the “Bane Act” Will be One of the Most Powerful Law Enforcement Reforms in 2021

OAKLAND, Calif., April 22, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Tom Bane Civil Rights Act, California Civil Code section 52.1, is California’s most broadly applicable civil rights law – the state counterpart to the Federal Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Bane Act forbids people from interfering with a person's constitutional rights by threat, intimidation, or coercion. Importantly, qualified immunity, which undermines access to civil justice in so many federal claims, does not apply to violations of the Bane Act. Unfortunately, as the federal civil rights act has come under sustained attack, so too has the Bane Act, leaving it inadequate redress many civil rights violations. Senate Bill 2 (SB 2) was introduced for the 2021 legislative session by State Senator Steven Bradford, D – Los Angeles. Michael Haddad, of civil rights law firm Haddad & Sherwin LLP, has litigated Bane Act cases extensively for over twenty years and aided in building these amendments, which will likely be among the most powerful law enforcement reforms of 2021.

“I’m honored to have worked with Senators, Assemblymembers, and civil rights groups like CAOC, NPAP, and the ACLU, to create this civil rights legislation that is critical for law enforcement reform and accountability in California,” said Michael Haddad. “Having served as President of the National Police Accountability Project (2010-2015) and having litigated scores of Bane Act cases, I believe that Californians deserve a strong and effective Act that protects their constitutional rights and lives. I hope this will lead the rest of the nation by example.”

Under SB 2, California would create an advisory board consisting of both members of the public and law enforcement to review allegations of serious peace officer misconduct and criminal violations. In conjunction with the existing Peace Officer Standards Accountability Advisory Board, the new board would have the power to revoke an officer’s certification and make all related records public.

In addition, Bane Act amendments necessary to fix the current major problems with the Act include provisions that will:

  • Eliminate state law immunities for peace officers who lie or plant evidence to maliciously prosecute innocent people and for public entities and officers who use excessive force on inmates and prisoners or deny them necessary medical care;
  • Clarify that a wrongful death cause of action can be brought for a Bane Act violation, as the Act was originally intended;
  • Codify positive case law that the required “threat, intimidation, or coercion” may be inherent in a single violation of rights, and that an intentional violation of a constitutional or other right is sufficient to prove a Bane Act claim; and
  • Clarify that proof of specific intent is not required to prove a violation of the Bane Act; only general intent is required, the same as for federal civil rights claims and as the Bane Act was understood before a 2017 court decision raised the bar for proving a Bane Act claim.

If you support this bill, encourage your local legislators to vote for it. To find out who your State Senate and Assembly representatives are, click here:

Founded in 1998 by Michael Haddad and Julia Sherwin, Haddad & Sherwin LLP is an Oakland law firm representing people in civil rights, police and jail misconduct, and wrongful death cases. For more information, visit


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