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California Attorney Says Jail Ban Was Baseless

SACRAMENTO (CN) - The Sacramento County Sheriff's Department banned an attorney from visiting clients in its jails and accused her of sexual misconduct without a "scintilla" of evidence, she claims in court.

Criminal defense attorney Sage Kaveny says sheriff's deputies stormed into a November 2014 meeting between her and an inmate and accused her of sexual misconduct simply because she wasn't in sight of the security cameras.

The guards claimed they saw Kaveny taking off her boots and dropping her pants during the attorney-client meeting, according to a lawsuit she filed in Eastern California Federal Court.

"Apparently, for defendants, if a female attorney is off-camera they must be engaging in sexual misconduct," the Jan. 26 complaint states.

Kaveny claims she was immediately barred from visiting clients at the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center and Sacramento County Main Jail and says her client Anthony Blackowl's trial was delayed because they couldn't meet.

After a continuance of Blackowl's trial, Kaveny successfully defended him and his criminal charges were eventually dropped, according to her lawsuit.

In addition to Blackowl, Kaveny says she was denied meeting-room rights with six other clients because of sheriff's deputies' "speculative and fantasy fueled conclusions."

She alleges her clients were also subjected to unnecessary searches just because they remained her clients.

Claiming her due process rights were violated, Kaveny fought the meeting ban in Sacramento Superior Court. Judge Jaime Roman agreed that the sheriff's department had no evidence of misconduct by plaintiff, ruling that she was subjected to "rash and inappropriate treatment by overly zealous correctional officers."

Armed with a court order, Kaveny attempted to visit a client at the Sacramento Main Jail but was laughed at by defendant Brian Shortz and again denied access to the attorney-client meeting room.

Kaveny then took Sacramento County back to court and prevailed again, with Roman ordering sheriff's deputies to reinstate her meeting rights five months after his initial order.

Yet still, the sheriff's department continued "thumbing their noses at Judge Roman's rulings" and had Kaveny attend an administrative hearing, her lawsuit says.

According to the complaint, the sheriff's department finally relinquished the ban and, after eight months and three court battles, Kaveny was given access to the jails' meeting rooms.

Kaveny, 37, was admitted to the California State Bar in 2014 and has no listed disciplinary or administrative records against her.

She says the sheriff's department tried to smother her reputation and spread lies about her alleged sexual misconduct to other inmates.

"It is clear, given the absence of any evidence of misconduct by plaintiff, defendants' allegations and conduct were the result of their bigoted and misogynistic beliefs that a woman spending time with her clients must be engaged in wrongdoing and sex, and not simply working hard to represent her clients," the 16-page lawsuit states.

The sheriff's department did not respond to an interview request Thursday morning.

Kaveny is represented by Stewart Katz in Sacramento, and is suing for punitive and exemplary damages against Sacramento County and six members of the sheriff's department.

She accuses the defendants of gender discrimination, due process violations, negligence and defamation.

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