Oakland, California - Looking back at 2021, California Attorney General Rob Bonta took the opportunity to highlight the California Department of Justice’s (DOJ) efforts to protect the people of California by investigating and prosecuting violations of the law, while advancing policies to ensure fairness and opportunity. Since Attorney General Bonta took office on April 23, 2021, the DOJ has continued to improve the lives of all Californians. As the People’s Attorney, Attorney General Bonta led efforts to advance justice for all — especially communities historically marginalized and overlooked — by defending and enforcing laws touching nearly all facets of life, including healthcare, environment, housing, public safety, and much more.
“I am proud of all the California Department of Justice has accomplished since I came into office this Spring,” said Attorney General Bonta. “We established new teams to take on California’s housing crisis, fight hate crime, and better engage with historically marginalized communities. We fought to achieve environmental justice, defend healthcare and reproductive freedom, and promote the civil rights of people across the country. And we worked to make the state safer by investigating illegal activity and holding bad actors accountable. We made 2021 count, and we’re going into 2022 with a clear vision to continue protecting California — including our health, natural resources, and people.”
Fighting Crime and Stopping the Surge of Gun Violence: The number one job of the California Department of Justice is to protect the public’s safety. Under Attorney General Bonta’s leadership, this year, the DOJ worked with local, state, and federal partners to take down human trafficking rings, dismantle gangs who riddle neighborhoods with violence, defend California's common-sense gun laws, go after ghost gun manufacturers, and put those who commit organized retail crime behind bars.
Just this month, Attorney General Bonta secured the felony sentences of multiple defendants involved in one of the largest organized retail theft operations in California history. In Sacramento, the DOJ helped investigate and make arrests of a local street gang responsible for a series of violent crimes, including homicides, and, in San Bernardino, the DOJ helped with an investigation that led to 180 arrests and 111 firearms seized during a multiagency operation targeting the Westside Verdugo criminal street gang. He also made it a priority to combat the scourge of human trafficking by formally launching new regional Human Trafficking and Sexual Predator Apprehension Teams (HT/SPAT) within the DOJ, issuing guidance to local law enforcement, and highlighting major investments in the state budget to help combat the effects of the pandemic on human trafficking while also directly supporting survivors. In addition to this new initiative, he announced 17 arrests related to human trafficking during a three-day multiagency operation in Kings County, and the results of “Operation Home for the Holidays,” a multijurisdictional, undercover operation that worked to combat human trafficking through targeted enforcement. He announced the launch of a new $5-million effort to improve public safety on tribal lands, through training and guidance for law enforcement agencies and tribal governments to help reduce uncertainty regarding criminal jurisdiction. And he announced a pivotal toxicology technology advancement that has helped significantly increase the DOJ’s capacity to analyze drug offense-related samples, including for cases involving driving under the influence of drugs and drug-facilitated sexual assault.
With an unacceptable rise in shootings and crime involving firearms, Attorney General Bonta has made it a priority to protect the public from gun violence. In one of his first acts in office, Attorney General Bonta announced an initiative to expand the gun violence-related data the DOJ releases to researchers and work to make data more transparent to the public. He also took direct action to combat the gun violence epidemic. He announced the appeal of a flawed decision in Miller v. Bonta that declared California's assault weapons laws unconstitutional, and secured a stay, leaving California's assault weapons laws in effect while appellate proceedings continue. He met with local leaders in Stockton and San Diego to discuss successful strategies and programs to prevent violence that could be replicated statewide. And he filed a complaint against three ghost gun kit manufacturers and retailers alleging unlawful, unfair, and fraudulent practices, and secured a victory in a lawsuit challenging California’s ban on large-capacity magazines. This month, he also awarded over $4.9 million to 10 county sheriff’s departments to support activities related to seizing weapons and ammunition from individuals prohibited from possessing them.
Confronting the Forces of Hate and Empowering Diverse Communities: Last year, California experienced an alarming 31% overall increase in reported hate crimes — the highest reported level in more than a decade. Believing strongly that our diversity is our strength, Attorney General Bonta made it a top priority to combat the effects of hate and work to build stronger, safer communities throughout California.
In order to combat the toxic effects of hate, Attorney General Bonta launched a new Racial Justice Bureau within the California Department of Justice and hosted a virtual convening against hate crime with California’s Big City Mayors, which together have been part of the effort to develop strategies to address bias and hate at their roots and to strengthen responses to hate crime in California. As part of that effort, Attorney General Bonta hosted roundtables with local leaders in San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, San Diego, Riverside, Long Beach, Santa Ana, and San Jose.
Committed to empowering our diverse communities, Attorney General Bonta also announced the launch of the Office of Community Awareness, Response, and Engagement (CARE) within the DOJ. As part of the effort to advance justice for all Californians, CARE works directly with community organizations, state and local elected officials, and members of the public to help ensure the inclusion of diverse perspectives in the state’s work. The new office focuses on cultivating relationships with historically marginalized and underrepresented communities in line with the DOJ’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in all aspects of its work on behalf of the people of California.
Fighting Big Polluters and Protecting Communities Living at the Intersection of Poverty and Pollution: Committed to defending those often overlooked, the Attorney General filed lawsuits, secured settlements, announced new efforts, and won in court to protect environmental justice communities. In his first days in office, Attorney General Bonta announced an expansion of the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Environmental Justice. The expansion increased the capacity of this first-of-its-kind bureau in a state attorney general’s office to protect people and communities that endure a disproportionate share of environmental pollution and public health hazards. Continuing his fight for environmental justice, Attorney General Bonta announced a settlement with the City of Huntington Park to bring the city into compliance with Senate Bill 1000, a law requiring local governments to address environmental justice in land use planning. In July, he filed a lawsuit against the City of Fontana challenging its approval of a warehouse project that shares a border with a public high school in one of the most polluted areas in the state. In September, he secured a court decision requiring the San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District to comply with state air monitoring requirements for refineries, a victory which helps protect communities in the San Joaquin Valley from air pollution. In October, he secured a victory in a lawsuit challenging approval of a San Diego development in a high wildfire risk area, and just this month, he filed a statewide lawsuit against Walmart for the illegal disposal of hazardous waste.
Protecting Access to Healthcare and Reproductive Freedom: This year, Attorney General Bonta vigorously defended Californians’ healthcare and reproductive freedom. In July, he announced a multistate settlement against Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen — the nation’s three major pharmaceutical distributors — and Johnson & Johnson, to resolve investigations and litigation over the companies’ roles in aiding the creation of and fueling the opioid epidemic. He also appealed and helped secure a decision reversing Purdue Pharma’s bankruptcy reorganization plan, which would have allowed Purdue to avoid responsibility for their role in the opioid crisis. Attorney General Bonta also worked to defend individuals nationwide against attacks of their reproductive freedom. In October, he filed a brief in support of a Kings County woman’s legal efforts to undo an 11-year prison term and criminal conviction against her for a stillbirth. He also led a multistate amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that Mississippi’s pre-viability abortion ban is unconstitutional in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, and filed a multistate amicus brief in United States of America v. State of Texas, et al. and Whole Woman’s Health, et al. v. Jackson to challenge the implementation of Senate Bill 8, Texas’ unconstitutional abortion ban. And just this week, he led a multistate amicus brief challenging Arizona’s unconstitutional “reason ban.”
Addressing California’s Housing Crisis: As part of a new effort to advance housing access, affordability, and equity in California, Attorney General Bonta created a new Housing Strike Force within the California Department of Justice and launched a series of tenant roundtables across the state. Attorney General Bonta also launched a Housing Portal on the DOJ's website with resources and information for California homeowners and tenants. Throughout 2021, Attorney General Bonta also issued alerts and provided resources to homeowners and tenants, reminding them of protections under the law. In December, he secured a $3.5 million judgment against Los Angeles county-based real estate investment company Wedgewood, resolving allegations that the company unlawfully evicted tenants from properties purchased at foreclosure sales.
Improving Public Safety by Strengthening Trust Between Law Enforcement and Communities: One of the most important tasks ahead for public safety and our society is building and maintaining trust between our communities and law enforcement. Attorney General Bonta is committed to working with law enforcement partners and our communities to increase trust and transparency in policing. As part of this effort, Attorney General Bonta announced the release of initial guidelines and protocols for the implementation of California Assembly Bill 1506 (AB 1506), as well as the formal establishment of California Police Shooting Investigation Teams to handle qualifying incidents. Under AB 1506, the California Department of Justice is required by law to investigate all incidents of an officer-involved shooting resulting in the death of an unarmed civilian in the state. He also announced a stipulated judgment with the City of Bakersfield and the Bakersfield Police Department, regarding the police department’s policies and practices. The stipulated judgment was the result of a comprehensive investigation by the DOJ, resulting in reforms to be overseen by an independent monitor that promote public safety, strengthen oversight and accountability systems, and protect the statutory and constitutional rights of the people of Bakersfield. In December, he announced an independent review of the Torrance Police Department as part of an effort to identify and correct potential systemic failures in the police department’s policies and practices. The review comes amidst deeply concerning allegations of excessive force, racist text messages, and other discriminatory misconduct, and follows a request for assistance by the Torrance Chief of Police. The review aims to promote public safety and rebuild trust between the Torrance Police Department and the community it serves.
Fighting Powerful Interests Who Cheat Californians: Attorney General Bonta has fought to protect consumers and workers and preserve competition in California’s marketplace. He announced a lawsuit against Google for anticompetitive practices related to the Google Play Store and filed a multistate lawsuit with the U.S. Department of Justice against American Airlines and JetBlue challenging an anticompetitive joint venture between the companies known as the Northeast Alliance. He also announced a nationwide investigation into Meta Platform, Inc., previously known as Facebook, for promoting Instagram to children and young adults despite evidence of adverse mental and physical effects in youth. As part of his efforts to protect Californians’ privacy online, he updated the public on successful enforcement efforts of the California Consumer Privacy Act, urged more Californians to take advantage of their new rights, and launched a new online tool to make it easier for them to do so. He sponsored Assemblymember Irwin’s Assembly Bill 488, legislation designed to protect donors and charities from deceptive or misleading solicitations on internet platforms. With the law’s passage, the DOJ will be able to better protect donors and charities in the digital world. He’s taken action to protect student borrowers, continuing the legal fight against Ashford University, and its parent company Zovio, Inc. (formerly Bridgepoint Education) for engaging in false advertising and unlawful business practices. He also secured a first-of-its-kind stipulated judgment requiring Amazon to end harmful labor practices that concealed COVID-19 case numbers from workers and to provide key information on workplace protections in line with California’s “right-to-know” law.
These ongoing efforts are made possible not only by our partners at the federal, state, and local level, but by the hard work and dedication of the thousands of people employed at the DOJ. They include lawyers, special agents, researchers, information technology technicians, program analysts, legal secretaries, field representatives, scientists, custodians, and more.