Gov. Jerry Brown’s lawyers had to eat their words. Under threat from a federal judge in Sacramento to put up or shut-up, lawyers for the state’s prisons retracted accusations of unethical money grubbing conduct against a court-appointed monitor reviewing the status of prison mental health care.
The state’s lawyers were upset that the monitor, Matthew Lopes, had failed to say the state had finally achieved compliance with court-ordered improvements to mental health care.
The legal word-slinging began January 28 when Deputy Attorney General Debbie J. Vorous filed papers objecting to Lopes’ latest 609-page report on prison conditions.
She argued court oversight of the prisons should end and wondered about Lopes’ reason for refusal to go along. “Perhaps the reason is because there is no incentive for the special master to be objective in this case. To date, the state has paid the special master, his Rhode Island law firm, and his team of monitors and experts nearly $48 million dollars.”
That set off U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton, who has presided over this case 14 years in an effort to get the state to raise its standards.
Last week, he gave the state five days to either produce some evidence that the monitor has acted unethically or remove the “smear” from the court record.
The state took the high road.
“The state does not allege that the special master is unethical, nor does it impugn his character,” wrote Rochelle C. East, chief deputy attorney general, in the latest filing.
She said, “In order to focus resources on defendants’ termination [over court oversight] motion, the state has mooted this issue by refiling its objections without the offending language, as requested by the court.”
Then she added, “But it is indisputable that in a time of extreme fiscal hardship, the state is paying large sums to the special master and his staff.”
Case: Coleman v. Brown, No. 90-cv-520LLK