No Right To Civil Defense In Sex Abuse Case

Jasper Ayala was a corrections officer with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. While on duty, Ayala forced an inmate to engage in oral sex. Ayala ultimately resigned from his position and pled nolo contendere to two felonies arising out of the sexual assault.

The inmate sued Ayala who, in turn, requested the State to provide him with a defense. When the State declined, Ayala appealed to the California Court of Appeals. The Court rejected Ayala’s lawsuit.

The Court found that under California law, the obligation to provide a defense in civil cases did not apply where the underlying conduct was outside the scope of employment or involved “actual malice.”

The Court found that the statute requiring a defense “establishes that the State had the discretion to decline Ayala’s request for representation based upon its conclusion that any of the statute’s exceptions to the duty to provide a defense applied. Here, the civil lawsuit alleges that Ayala abused his position of authority as a guard in order to force an inmate to engage in oral sex, conduct which she alleged violated both the law and policies with respect to inappropriate sexual relations and contact with prisoners. Ayala admitted that conduct when he pled nolo contendere. It therefore follows that Ayala’s actions were done with deliberate wrongful intent, and constituted ‘actual malice.’ Consequently, the State’s decision to deny representation was not an abuse of discretion.”

Ayala v. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, 2008 WL 134109 (Cal.App. 2008).

This article appears in the March 2008 issue