Representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union and the UFW Foundation announced a lawsuit Monday alleging Kern County and local government agencies have denied misdemeanor defendants access to legal representation in court proceedings. The lawsuit was announced during a morning news conference at the Liberty Bell in downtown Bakersfield.

A lawsuit filed Monday accuses Kern County officials of denying local residents their constitutional rights, including due process of law, by allowing probation officers to broker closed-door plea deals in misdemeanor criminal arraignments.

Filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and others on behalf of three county residents and the UFW Foundation, the suit in Kern County Superior Court alleges the system disproportionately harms people of color and those who don’t speak English fluently.