Sacramento County agreed this week to pay $45,000 in damages and change its policy on lawyer-client visits at the jail as a result of a lawsuit brought by a female lawyer accused of sexual misconduct in a visiting room, said lawyer Stewart Katz, who represented the plaintiff, Sage Kaveny.
Kaveny, a criminal defense lawyer, was accused of exposing herself to a client while consulting with him about his case in November 2014 and subsequently had her visitation privileges revoked, according to a federal court petition.
Deputies at the jail claimed Kaveny removed her pants and boots when she stepped out of range of surveillance cameras. Video showed her stepping out of view briefly before officers entered the room and stopped the interview. Kaveny said she merely stood up to stretch after sitting and talking to her client for more than an hour.
In January 2015, a Sacramento Superior Court judge ruled after a hearing on the case that there was no evidence of misconduct and she was the victim of “rash and inappropriate treatment by overly zealous correctional officers” and that “she deserved better treatment. And so did her clients.” Despite this ruling, jail officials continued to deny her attorney visitation privileges, flouting the judge’s order as well as a subsequent order issued in May 2015.
According to the petition, the officers also gossiped about Kaveny to inmates, correctional officers and other lawyers as well as harassing her clients and subjecting them to unnecessary searches. Their conduct caused Kaveny to lose business opportunities, suffer anxiety and distress and incur legal fees, her petition stated.
The settlement agreement includes a policy change concerning notification and appeal rights for lawyers who lose privileges.
The County Sheriff’s Department did not immediately return an emailed request for comment on the settlement.