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There has to be a better way to protect our neighborhoods...

The Peace and Justice Law Center formed to address the concern that war-on-gangs policing and routine police misconduct are making Orange County less safe and less just. The PJLC formed to ensure that community leaders who are personally impacted by the criminal justice system have their ideas represented in legal and policy forums where impacted people are rarely fully heard.

The PJLC began its work by partnering with the Criminal Justice Clinic of the UC Irvine Law School and with community groups in Orange County, California to provide direct legal services to young men and women referred by gang intervention workers and who were counterproductively targeted for harsh and unjust war-on-gangs policing.

Rooted in this direct service work, the PJLC next looked for opportunities to make a larger impact. The PJLC began challenging gang injunctions -- civil laws suits that use gang allegations to effectively put people on lifetime probation regardless of whether the person ever committed a crime. Next the PJLC's work grew to include impact litigation to implement California's Racial Justice Act, legal support to grassroots organizations, technical support to legislators and community members seeking to reform California's STEP Act, and co-sponsorship of the Decriminalizing Neighborhoods Conference and National Network.

Next, the PJLC began to look for new ways to challenge the routine misconduct of law enforcement and the systemic oppression of poor communities of color. Following the same approach the PJLC uses to address counterproductive gang suppression, the PJLC is entering this work by serving victims of police misconduct and by partnering with organizations led by impacted people. By focusing on the routine misconduct that is rarely the basis of lawsuits -- trashing a house during a search, refusing to return phones seized as evidence, stopping people for needless and confrontational street corner detentions -- the PJLC will next look for opportunities to broaden this work to make a systemic impact.

The Peace and Justice Law Center continues to advocate for more effective and fair approaches to public safety that (1) reduce neighborhood violence, (2) reduce state violence, and (3) decrease racially discriminatory targeting by the criminal justice system.

Our accomplishments include:

  • Partnering with the UCI Criminal Justice Clinic and others to remove individuals from the state's gang database; clean up their criminal record; and navigate the county’s misdemeanor diversion program.

  • Offering expert testimony to stop the deportation of individuals falsely accused of gang membership;

  • Partnering with the UCI Civil Rights Litigation Clinic to pursue litigation that will advance the California's Racial Justice Act;

  • Co-sponsoring the Decriminalizing Neighborhoods Conference;

  • Providing technical support to the author and sponsors of AB 333 (Kamlager), the state legislation that tightened the rules for when prosecutors can seek a gang enhancement;

  • Defending individuals targeted by gang injunctions and challenging the constitutionality of gang injunctions;

  • Participating in impact litigation cases by filing amicus letters with the Court of Appeal;

  • Co-organizing the Decriminalizing Neighborhoods National Network

  • Suing the Orange County District Attorney for racial justice data they have unlawfully kept hidden;

  • Leading community workshops on California’s Racial Justice Act