Ahead of New Year, Attorney General Bonta Reflects on Efforts to Protect and Defend California’s People and Resources in 2022

OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today highlighted the California Department of Justice’s (DOJ) efforts to protect and defend the people and resources of California over the past year. In 2022, DOJ worked to improve the lives of Californians by protecting public health and safety and advancing justice for all by enforcing and defending laws touching nearly all facets of life, including healthcare, the environment, housing, consumer protection, civil rights, and criminal justice.

“In 2022, we took bold action on behalf of all Californians by working to build stronger, safer communities while responding to ongoing and emerging threats to public health and safety, to our fundamental rights, and at times, even to our democracy,” said Attorney General Bonta. “I’m proud of the more than 5,000 DOJ employees who work day in and day out on behalf of the people of California, and all that we have accomplished together. Going into 2023, we will continue to make strides to advance Californians’ fundamental rights, prevent gun violence, hold bad actors accountable, and beyond.”

KEY ACTIONS

FENTANYL CRACKDOWN: Announced the seizure of 4 million+ deadly fentanyl pills 

HOLDING CORPORATIONS ACCOUNTABLE: Announced over $47 billion in nationwide opioid settlements, sued corporate giants for harming Californians

FIGHTING GUN VIOLENCE: Launched a first-of-its-kind Office of Gun Violence Prevention, took action to protect our communities by seizing illegally held weapons

DEFENDING REPRO RIGHTS: Sponsored first-in-the-nation legislation to safeguard abortion data privacy, defended reproductive rights in courts across the nation 

TAKEDOWNS OF CRIMINAL ORGANIZATIONS: Contributed to major takedowns of criminal organizations across California resulting in 175+ felony arrests and the dismantling of statewide organized retail theft networks

SUPPORTING SURVIVORS: Launched California’s first-ever sexual assault kit tracking portal 

TACKLING THE HOUSING CRISIS: Made way for the development of thousands of potential additional units of housing by putting local governments on notice for violating state housing laws 

CLIMATE ACTION: Launched groundbreaking investigation into Big Oil and chemical giants for causing and exacerbating the global plastics pollution crisis

Protecting Reproductive Freedom: This year, as the nation looked to California as a haven for reproductive rights in a post-Dobbs world, Attorney General Bonta worked with legal and law enforcement partners within the state and beyond to defend and expand access to reproductive care. In the first months of 2022, Attorney General Bonta issued a legal alert to local law enforcement agencies asserting that California law does not criminalize pregnancy loss, following the unjust prosecutions of Adora Perez and Chelsea Becker, and sent letters to the sheriffs overseeing each county jail in California requesting confirmation of their compliance with state and federal reproductive health laws. 

In the wake of unprecedented threats to reproductive rights at the national level, Attorney General Bonta warned health apps of their legal obligation to protect reproductive health data and issued a consumer alert about the limited and potentially misleading nature of the services provided by crisis pregnancy centers. In response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs, Attorney General Bonta joined U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris for a convening of reproductive rights leaders in California, traveled across the state to remind Californians about their abortion rights and protections under California law, issued legal guidance to law enforcement emphasizing that California law prohibits the extradition of individuals providing or accessing reproductive care in California, sponsored first-in-the-nation legislation to safeguard abortion data privacy, and launched a statewide task force to protect and expand access to abortion and other reproductive healthcare. 

Tackling California Housing Crisis: As California continued to face a housing shortage and affordability crisis of epic proportions, Attorney General Bonta’s Housing Strike Force ramped up its enforcement of state housing production, consumer protection, and housing discrimination laws, putting local governments from El Cajon and Fresno to Woodside and Pasadena on notice for violations of state housing laws. The Attorney General also worked to defend newly enacted legislation aimed at boosting housing production, securing a court decision upholding the constitutionality of Senate Bill 10 allowing local governments to rezone transit-rich areas or urban infill sites for denser housing, irrespective of existing zoning restrictions.

With the rising cost of housing at the forefront of Californians’ minds, Attorney General Bonta fought to protect tenants’ and homeowners’ rights and prevent housing discrimination. Attorney General Bonta reminded local officials across the state of key protections for people with disabilities in housing and other public accommodations. And he issued warnings to eviction lawyers across the state after receiving reports that some landlords may be filing false declarations to illegally evict California families. The Attorney General also sent letters to key mortgage servicers urging the companies’ immediate and full participation in the California Mortgage Relief Program and issued a legal alert reminding water providers of requirements to protect California tenants and homeowners facing water shutoffs.  

Protecting Public Health and the Environment: The Attorney General took on corporate polluters and fought to protect the health and safety of California communities this year through innovative settlements, a first-of-its-kind investigation, and major lawsuits. In April, Attorney General Bonta launched a groundbreaking investigation into the fossil fuel industry for its role in causing and exacerbating the global plastics pollution crisis, starting with subpoenaing ExxonMobil. The Attorney General built on this investigation in the fall with letters demanding that the major manufacturers of plastic bags in California substantiate their claims that the bags are recyclable. And just last month, Attorney General Bonta filed a lawsuit against the manufacturers of PFAS, including 3M and DuPont, for endangering public health, causing irreparable harm to the state’s natural resources, and engaging in a widespread campaign to deceive the public. 

Recognizing that certain communities endure a disproportionate share of environmental pollution, Attorney General Bonta’s Bureau of Environmental Justice sent CEQA letters, filed lawsuits, and reached innovative settlements to address historic and ongoing inequities in local land use decisions. This included settlements requiring Fontana and Stockton to prepare and consider ordinances requiring substantial mitigation measures for future warehouses built within the city. The Attorney General also weighed in on proposals raising environmental justice concerns in the City and County of Fresno and intervened in lawsuits challenging Moreno Valley’s 2040 General Plan and the Eagle Rock Aggregates Terminal in West Oakland for violations of CEQA.

Addressing Gun Violence: Attorney General Bonta continued his leadership with a strong, statewide effort to put an end to gun violence. Amid gun-related tragedies occurring throughout the nation and a significant Supreme Court ruling in Bruen, the Attorney General launched a first-in-the-nation Office of Gun Violence Prevention, took legal action against ghost gun retailers, advocated for and defended commonsense gun laws, worked on the ground to keep firearms out of the hands of dangerous individuals, and announced the 2021 APPS report, which reported the seizure of more than 1,400 illegally-possessed firearms through Armed and Prohibited Persons (APPS) enforcement efforts in 2021 — a 15% year-over-year increase. 

Attorney General Bonta also provided grants to local law enforcement to support activities related to seizing weapons from individuals prohibited from possessing them, successfully called on credit card companies to do their part to end illegal gun trafficking and mass shootings, and promoted the use of the state’s red flag laws to remove weapons from individuals who pose a danger to themselves or others.

Standing Up for the Civil Rights of All: Throughout the year, Attorney General Bonta kept up the fight to protect the civil rights of people in California and across the country. From the California Supreme Court to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Attorney General stood up for the rights of LGBTQ+ Americans, pushing to uphold anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ long-term care residents in California and leading a nationwide coalition in support of the right of LGBTQ+ people to live, work, and pursue education free from discrimination. And, whether it was standing up against racial gerrymandering in Alabama or supporting efforts to restore access to the ballot box for previously incarcerated North Carolinians, Attorney General Bonta took action to uphold a cornerstone of our democracy: the right to vote. 

In 2022, the Attorney General: Secured agreements to prevent discrimination against Native Americans in hotel accommodations; worked to help a family recover artwork stolen by Nazis during the Holocaust; successfully fought off an Arizona-led attack on the ability of immigrants to access federally-funded programs like Medicaid; reminded officials statewide of their obligations to uphold the civil rights of people with disabilities; opened a civil rights investigation into the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office; through the Racial Justice Bureau, supported the work of the Reparations Task Force in issuing its historic interim report on the harms of slavery and systemic discrimination on African Americans; and, as a son of the farmworker labor movement, took action to stand up for federal minimum wage protections nationwide.

Preserving Competition and Taking on Bad Corporate Actors: In 2022, Attorney General Bonta fought to protect consumers and preserve competition in California’s marketplace. The Attorney General aggressively enforced state and federal antitrust laws, filing lawsuits against Amazon for blocking price competition, agri-chemical giants Syngenta and Corteva for anticompetitive practices, and grocery chain Albertsons to block a $4 billion investor payout while its proposed merger with Kroger is under review. He also launched a nationwide investigation into TikTok for promoting its platform to young people despite the associated harms and ramped up enforcement of California’s nation-leading data privacy law, securing a settlement against Sephora and initiating enforcement sweeps of businesses failing to comply with the law. And as Californians grappled with the ongoing fallout from the opioid epidemic, Attorney General Bonta secured billions of dollars in nationwide settlements against Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family, opioid retailers Walgreens and Walmart, and opioid manufacturers Teva and Allergan.

Attorney General Bonta also filed lawsuits, secured settlements, and sponsored legislation to protect hardworking California families and their pocketbooks. In the first days of 2022, the Attorney General announced a settlement against Navient, resolving allegations of misconduct in the servicing and collection of federal student loans. Continuing to take action against predatory, for-profit colleges, Attorney General Bonta secured a $22 million judgment against Ashford University and celebrated the culmination of DOJ’s decades-long battle to hold Corinthian Colleges accountable. Later in the year, Attorney General Bonta secured restitution for approximately 370,000 Californians in a settlement with Intuit for deceptively advertising its “free” online TurboTax products and announced a $15.5 million settlement against Rent-A-Center for unlawful leasing practices and deceptive marketing.

Fighting Crime and Supporting Victims and Survivors: Attorney General Bonta worked together with local, state, and federal law enforcement partners to protect California’s neighborhoods by cracking down on theft, fraud, and illicit drugs, dismantling organized criminal activity, and holding suspects accountable. In just the past year, the Attorney General announced major law enforcement operations aimed at tackling human trafficking in San Diego and Kings County, the dismantling of criminal organizations in FresnoVisaliaStockton, and Riverside, and the results of investigations into illegal gambling densretail theft rings, and postal fraud schemes. Attorney General Bonta provided an update on DOJ’s ongoing efforts to address the fentanyl crisis, including the seizure of over 4 million fentanyl pills and almost 900 pounds of fentanyl powder, and over 200 arrests.

The Attorney General also stepped up efforts to protect victims and survivors, launching the state’s first-ever sexual assault kit tracking portal, urging California’s diverse communities to report hate crimesconvening private sector law firms to help increase access to pro-bono legal services, and sharing resources available to support victims, survivors, and their families all across California.

Protecting California’s Elders and Medi-Cal Program: In 2022, Attorney General Bonta held elder abusers accountable and secured justice for Californians harmed by medical providers who illegally abused their power and defrauded the state’s Medi-Cal program. To secure the safety and well-being of our elders, Attorney General Bonta brought legal action against bad actors who committed financialemotional, or physical abuse against this vulnerable population and issued guidance to Californians to identify and report elder abuse. Attorney General Bonta also worked to defend the integrity of the Medi-Cal program and the essential healthcare services it provides to the people of California. The Attorney General secured a $230 million settlement against a global pharmaceutical company for knowingly underpaying Medicaid drug rebates and announced $70.7 million and $22.5 million settlements against providers for defrauding the Medi-Cal program. He also announced the arrest of 14 individuals in connection with two hospice companies accused of stealing more than $4.2 million from the federal Medicare and state Medi-Cal programs and held unscrupulous physicians accountable for violating their positions of power and taxpayers.

These ongoing efforts are made possible not only by partners at the federal, state, and local level, but by the hard work and dedication of the thousands of people employed at DOJ. They include lawyers, special agents, researchers, information technology technicians, program analysts, legal secretaries, field representatives, scientists, and more. Additional information about the work done at the California Department of Justice is available here. More information on career opportunities is available here.

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