The CA legislature has a little known statute called the Ralphs and Banes act. It has both a criminal element and a civil element. The civil element pertains to Civil Code section 52.1, subdivision (a), which provides that if a person interferes, or attempts to interfere, by threats, intimidation, or coercion, with the exercise or enjoyment of the constitutional or statutory rights of “any individual or individuals,” the Attorney General, or any district or city attorney, may bring a civil action for equitable or injunctive relief. Subdivision (b) allows “[a]ny individual” so interfered with to sue for damages. Subdivision (g) states that an action brought under section 52.1 is “independent of any other action, remedy, or procedure that may be available to an aggrieved individual under any other provision of law,” including Civil Code section 51.7. Civil Code section 52.1 does not extend to all ordinary tort actions because its provisions are limited to threats, intimidation, or coercion that interfere with a constitutional or statutory right, which need to be alleged.
The CA supreme court in Venegas v. County of Los Angeles, 87 P. 3d 1 – Cal: Supreme Court 2004, held that the Ralphs and Banes act also applies to unreasonable search and seizures involving a sheriff department where the plaintiff did not need to demonstrate a protected minority class to qualify the cause of action under the statute, but instead needed to demonstrate threats, intimidation or coercion that interfered with a constitutional or statutory right.
The Ralphs and Banes act is also referred to as the hate speech statue as prior to the Venegas holding the plaintiff needed to demonstrate that the defendant intended to discriminate based on the victim’s actual or apparent racial, ethnic, religious, or sexual orientation or other minority status. (See, e.g., In re Michael M. (2001) 86 Cal.App.4th 718, 725-726, 104 Cal.Rptr.2d 10 [describing the intent element underlying hate crime legislation].)
Civil Code section 51.7, a separate and independent enactment referred to in section 52.1, declares that all persons have the right to be free from violence or intimidation because of their race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, political affiliation, sex, sexual orientation, age, disability, or position in a labor dispute, or because they are perceived by another to have any of these characteristics. Section 52, subdivision (b), makes persons who violate section 51.7 liable for actual and exemplary damages and penalties.
Boccato v. City of Hermosa Beach (1994) 29 Cal.App.4th 1797, 1809, 35 Cal.Rptr.2d 282, concluded that a plaintiff who brings an action under Civil Code section 52.1 must be a member of one of the classes protected by Civil Code section 51.7. Thereafter, in 2000, after the events giving rise to this action, the Legislature enacted Assembly Bill No. 2719 (1999-2000 Reg. Sess.) (hereafter Assembly Bill 2719) to explain that Boccato erred in that assumption, and to clarify that Civil Code section 52.1 applies to an affected plaintiff “without regard to his or her membership in a protected class identified by its race, color, religion, or sex, among other things.” (Stats.2000, ch. 98, § 1.)
In Jones v. Kmart Corp. (1998) 17 Cal.4th 329, 338, 70 Cal.Rptr.2d 844, 949 P.2d 941, , the CA Supreme court acknowledged that Civil Code section 52.1 was adopted “to stem a tide of hate crimes.”
In Venegas the Supreme Court clarified the statement in Jones and suggested that section 52.1 was not limited to such crimes, or required plaintiffs to demonstrate that County or its officers had a discriminatory purpose in harassing them, that is, that they committed an actual hate crime. The language in Jones was used by observing that the language of section 52.1 provides remedies for “certain misconduct that interferes with” federal or state laws, if accompanied by threats, intimidation, or coercion, and whether or not state action is involved.