CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND REHABILITATION
AND THE CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE LOSE CASE
AFTER MILKING CALIFORNIA TAXPAYERS FOR $1,714,520.63
by Dave Harrison
California taxpayers continue to pay the price for the fiscal irresponsibility of state employees who are neither held accountable or responsible.
In the aftermath of a major riot, in 2005, between White and Mexican prisoners at Ironwood State Prison, Blythe, California, both races were put on lock-down. The movement of prisoners outside of their cells was required to be strictly controlled, e.g., each prisoner under escort and handcuffed. There were to be no exceptions to the required controls. Yet, a mere five days after the riot, three Correctional Officers ("C/O") of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR") provided six Mexican inmates unfettered access to this (White) writer, who endured a severe and prolonged beating. An Internal Affairs investigation found the C/Os to have been derelict and wholly responsible for this writer's beating. Indeed, in a later deposition, one of the C/Os described the daily program as being "run amok," with virtually no controls being observed. Regardless, the C/Os, each and every one, refused to accept responsibility for their actions.
On 4 December, 2006, this writer filed a civil rights lawsuit (42 U.S.C. § 1983) against various employees of the CDCR (Harrison v. Tilton, et al., United States District Court for the Central District of California (#CV-'06-7423-GW(RNBx)). Specifically, the Complaint raised "failure to protect" claims against the three C/Os. The California Attorney General's Office (Atty.Gen.- Off.) entered the litigation on behalf of the three C/Os. Shortly thereafter, however, the defendants were telling conflicting stories incriminating each other, thus forcing the Atty.Gen.Off. to step away from the case. The CDCR then hired three separate law firms, one to represent each defendant. This writer's many efforts, immediately following the filing of the lawsuit and throughout, to settle the case were summarily rebuffed by the state. The state's refusal to settle was based "on principle," having settled a previous civil rights lawsuit (Harrison v. Babb, et al., United States District Court for the Central District of California (#CV-'04-10216-JVS(RC)), settled for a monetary award in favor of this writer) the state was adamant, and uncompromising, that she would not settle another. Extensive discovery was taken. The defendants filed dispositive motions, which were denied. Jury trial commenced in early-2010. Two of the defendants were (barely) acquitted, an outcome that did not reflect their culpability, but the result of a pleading deficiency within the Complaint. Nonetheless, the remaining defendant was found guilty. The jury awarded both punitive and compensatory damages. Rather than let loose of the cow's udder, the law firm for the guilty defendant appealed, asking the trial judge to overturn the jury's verdict. After exhaustive briefing, hearings, and two-and-one-half-years, the judge issued a comprehensive decision giving each party something to be happy with; overturning the punitive damages, and leaving the compensatory damages as awarded. Neither party dared appeal, lest they lose what benefit they had received.
With the case finally finished, this writer submitted a California Public Records Act ("CPRA") request to the Atty.Gen.- Off. seeking the Cost of Suit Summary (what the Atty.Gen.Off. milked the taxpayers for in defending against the lawsuit). Separate CPRA requests were served on the CDCR to obtain the grand total figures billed by each of the law firms that represented the defendants. To her credit, the Atty.Gen.Off. promptly complied with her obligations under the law, and provided this writer with the requested records; total costs $157,209.60. Apparently having much more to hide, the CDCR refused to cooperate, ignoring this writer's CPRA requests. This writer filed a Petition For Writ Of Mandate (Harrison v. CDCR, Superior Court of California, County of Sacramento (#34-2011-80000982- CU-WM-GDS)) to force the CDCR to provide the requested records. Enter, once again, the Atty.Gen.Off. to defend the CDCR. The Deputy Attorney General ("DAG") assigned to the case spent his time attempting to push this writer into a stipulated dismissal of the case. This writer refused, informing the DAG that dismissal would occur upon satisfaction of the CPRA requests. The DAG provided partial records of one of the law firms, from which it was established the law firm had milked the taxpayers, as of 12 July, 2010, for $103,512.11. The DAG continued to push for dismissal. This writer pushed back. A hearing was scheduled on the Mandate Petition for early-2013. In the meanwhile, this writer slipped in another CPRA request for the billing records of the three law firms (this backdoor tactic sometimes works, in that the second request often lands on the desk of a different employee who properly processes the request). The tactic was successful, sort of. This writer received the grand total figures of the amounts billed by each of the three law firms. But the numbers seemed low. Indeed, the $103,512.11 had fallen to $99,995.08. This writer questioned all the figures as being inaccurate. The CDCR then corrected one figure, admitting that the $79,191.38 initially provided was low (this was the law firm that represented the guilty defendant) -- the actual grand total figure, according to the CDCR, totaled $1,353,872.00. This writer contested the corrected figure as seemingly too high. The CDCR responded with an attitude: "You have been provided with the billed amounts. Nothing has changed. Therefore, this request is denied and the matter is considered closed." The totals stand as follows: $157,209.60 for the Atty.Gen.Off; the law firms billed $103,512.11, $99,926.92 and $1,353,872.00. The taxpayers were milked for $1,714,520.63 because the defendants refused to accept responsibility, and the state, "on principle," rebuffed this writer's every effort to settle the case. It gets worse. According to the Cost of Suit Summary from the first case, the costs there were $145,365.55. But wait, it gets even worse. Additionally, the first case settled for a monetary award in this writer's favor, and the second case resulted in the jury awarding this writer compensatory damages, which the judge upheld. Add on the costs of the federal and state courts, escort officers to transport this writer daily to and from trial ... The numbers just keep growing and growing. In just two small cases, the CDCR and the Atty.Gen.Off. have colluded in the wasting of more than $1,859,886.18 of taxpayers' dollars. State employees not held accountable or responsible; fiscally irresponsible arrogance and principles are costly commodities.
Had the C/Os taken responsibility, and had the Atty.Gen.Off. -- the state -- not acted solely on the "principle" of teaching this writer a lesson about non-settlement, the second civil rights lawsuit would have settled at its earliest stages, saving the taxpayers nearly all of the $1,714,520.63. That case would have settled for (relatively) pennies. The total, all costs and expenses considered; How many teachers could have been rehired?; How many school-yard playgrounds rehabilitated?; How many blankets and meals for the homeless and hungry?; Health care for those in need; Infrastructure projects ... Nearly two-million dollars wasted, and that is only the tip of the iceberg. Multiply that number by the 140,000 CDCR prisoners, many of whom have had, or presently have, lawsuits filed against the CDCR, and every one of those lawsuits being defended by the Atty.Gen.Off. (seems as if the Atty.Gen.Off. would have more important matters to use her limited resources on).
Of course, the Atty.Gen.Off. will be served with a CPRA request seeking the Cost of Suit Summary once the Mandate Petition has been fully litigated, so that we can find out just how much the Atty.Gen.Off. milked from the taxpayers as a result of the CDCR's recalcitrance to this writer's earlier CPRA requests.