Santa Barbara Criminal Defense Attorney Tara Haaland-Ford, 48, Dies of Cancer

Legal Crusader Opposed Santa Barbara City Hall’s Efforts to Impose Gang Injunction

Tara Haaland-Ford | Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

After fighting cancer for nearly 10 years — with well over 100 rounds of chemotherapy — criminal defense attorney Tara Haaland-Ford was finally bested this past weekend, dying at age 48.

Tara Haaland-Ford and her family in 2013. | Credit: Courtesy

Haaland-Ford used social media to chronicle her lengthy and against-all-odds battle with cancer — “F*** Cancer” being her campaign slogan — after  first being diagnosed at age 40 with Stage 4 colon cancer. But in courthouse circles, Haaland-Ford was best known as a legal crusader for juveniles in trouble with the law or with school authorities.

Haaland-Ford was one of several criminal defense attorneys who came together to oppose Santa Barbara City Hall’s efforts to impose a gang injunction in response to an uptick in gang-related violence. Haaland-Ford and her colleagues persuaded Judge Colleen Sterne that a gang-injunction — and the safety zones it created — constituted an overly broad response to a relatively narrow law enforcement problem.

“There is no evidence that residents of the proposed Safety Zones in Santa Barbara are prisoners in their own homes, remain indoors at night, prevent their children from playing outside, or whose friends and relatives refuse to visit,” Sterne ruled in 2014.

In response to the verdict, Haaland-Ford commented, “I’m elated. I’m floating. Maybe now both sides can start working together and putting resources into programs that actually help.”

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