Activist Video Archive

Preserving progressive, multicultural voices of Los Angeles area activists and philanthropists.

Preserving progressive, multicultural voices of Los Angeles area activists and philanthropists.

Sam Paz

Part One

Part Two

Samuel Paz is a native of Los Angeles. In 1971, Paz graduated with honors from UCLA. He received a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Southern California Law School in 1974. Since then, he has practiced law specializing in litigation of civil rights claims, earning numerous victories in cases involving injuries or death caused by police misconduct.

In 1978, in Myerson v. LAPD, Mr. Paz obtained what is considered the first substantial civil award against a police department for illegal spying activities. Shortly thereafter he was a principle member of the ACLU litigation team that obtained a $2,000,000 award and injunction against L.A.P.D. preventing infiltration and illegal collection of information on community and political organizations. In 1986, In Placencia v. L.A. Sheriff Dept., he won, what was reported to be the first million dollar verdict against a police department in California in the shooting death of a 33 year furniture worker. In 1993, Paz secured an $8.9 million verdict against an L.A.P.D. officer in a case arising out of the shooting of a L.A. Coliseum grounds keeper. Recent cases with substantial recovery and providing impetus for policy changes are Gavira v. County of Los Angeles, the death of Ramon Gavira by strangulation and beatings by deputies; Ortega v. County of Los Angeles, death of a inmate by denial of medical attention and starvation alleging ADA violations; Moye v. Baca, failure of jail guards to supervise allowing an inmate-on-inmate beating causing death, Whitfield v. State, an action proving the failure of CYA officials to provide care causing a double suicide of two juvenile teenagers being held at CYA Ione facility in Northern California; and, Chavez v. Martinez, 538 U.S. 760 (2003) and Martinez v City of Oxnard, 337 F.3d 1091 (9th Cir. 2003) a shooting by police which left the plaintiff blind and paralyzed in which a coercive interrogation was upheld as a constitutional violation.

In the 36 years he has been a lawyer, Mr. Paz has a recipient of approximately 30 honors for his legal work. Some of these are: being selected as a Spring 2010 Social Justice Visiting Practitioner at University of Santa Clara Law School; the 2008 City of Los Angeles Award of Congratulations for being one of seven prior graduates inducted into the Benjamin Franklin High School Hall of Honor; and, the National Lawyer's Guild’s highest award, the 2007 "Honorable Robert W. Kenny Award" for being a pioneer in litigation involving the constitutional rights of persons in jails. Other honors are ACLU’s highest award, the 2003 Eason Monroe Courageous Advocate award; the University of Southern California Law School’s 2002 Inspirational Alumnus award presented by La Raza Law Students. He has published over thirty legal articles.


“Everything that is tearing us down today will become a memory, and this memory will be shared as an anecdote or a story or a poem or a play or a warning. It will be shared with another human being, who will then understand that he is not alone in his sadness. This is why we show up for others and tell our tales and listen to others. The great congregation meets daily, and you are someone’s angel today.”

-Tennessee Williams/Interview with James Grissom

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