CDC - Legal Costs
Posted on Sat, May. 22, 2004
State agrees to pay S.J. family of inmate
SACRAMENTO - The state Department of Corrections has agreed to pay a San Jose family $550,000 in the 1998 fatal shooting of a Salinas Valley Prison inmate by an officer nicknamed ``Top Gun.''
In confirming the agreement, J.P. Tremblay, a department spokesman, cautioned this week that the state was not admitting liability in the death of Mark Anthony Perez.
He was shot during a exercise-yard fistfight by Carlos Jacobo, an officer involved in about 30 shootings in his first 18 months on the job. That was more than any other officer at the prison during that time and helped him earn his nickname, according to Perez's attorneys.
The settlement of the federal court case comes as the state prison system is reeling from legislative inquiries into hundreds of millions in budget overruns and a federal court monitor's January report that the department failed to properly investigate rogue officers.
The settlement raises troubling questions for the state, said John Scott, a San Francisco attorney who represented the Perez family.
``For me it's symptomatic of an ongoing policy of not wanting to accept responsibility, not wanting to admit that there are failed shooting policies and bad shootings.''
The agreement was reached between the Attorney General's Office and three Perez family members -- his two children, ages 8 and 13, and his mother.
Perez, convicted of assault with a deadly weapon, was 25 when he was shot in the leg by a high-powered rifle while involved in a fistfight. He bled to death the next day during surgery, said James Chanin, another Perez family attorney.
According to a court declaration, another inmate said he saw the fight between Perez and inmate Darren Halliwell. The inmate said it was clear to him ``that this was a fistfight and that there were no weapons involved.''
Beginning of a fight
But Jacobo described it as more than a fistfight. He was assigned to a gun post overlooking two exercise yards. He had asked for relief so he could go to the bathroom.
His relief officer saw an altercation in which Halliwell had shaken off the blows of another inmate wielding a sharp object. That inmate left and Perez and Halliwell came to blows. The relief officer fired a warning shot of non-lethal wood blocks.
According to Perez family attorneys, Jacobo almost immediately shot Perez with his rifle. Jacobo's only words were ``get down.'' They also said he never warned Perez that he would use lethal force, didn't sound any alarms or whistles and failed to call for his supervisors, all required by department rules.
In his deposition, according to Perez family attorneys, Jacobo said Perez had weapons in both hands, although he told the attorneys he never actually saw them.
The department attorneys contended that Jacobo acted lawfully to restore order.
Jacobo, a 10-year veteran of the department now employed at Valley State Prison for Women, could not be reached for comment. A department spokesman would not say whether he was disciplined for the shooting, or comment on Jacobo's nickname or whether he was involved in other shootings.
Tremblay said the settlement was in the midrange for prison wrongful-death cases.
Contact Mark Gladstone at email@example.com or (916) 325-4314.
DAILY JOURNAL NEWSWIRE ARTICLE
June 17, 2002
CDC SETTLES IN INMATE'S DEATH
The family of the prisoner claimed the women's
By Matthew King
Daily Journal Staff Writer
SAN FRANCISCO - The California Department of Corrections has
agreed to pay $201,000 to settle a wrongful death suit brought by the family
of an inmate who was denied appropriate medical care for hepatitis C.
Spiraling Legal Costs Have Busted Budget of Corrections Dept.
Pamela J. Podger, Chronicle Staff Writer
May 27, 1999
California's troubled Department of Corrections has paid out so much
in settlements and judgments that it has exhausted its legal funds three
months before the end of the fiscal year.
The agency's $15.5 million settlement fund was drained by late March,
officials acknowledged, prompting the department to request a special appropriation
to see it through to June 30.
The hemorrhaging legal costs are seen by department critics as evidence
of the agency's poor handling of prisoner rights issues, as well as continuing
neglect of medical and mental health care for inmates.
Steve Fama of the Prison Law Office in San Rafael, a prisoner rights
group, said yesterday he was not surprised the department used up the funds
in settlements and judgments.
``It is the inevitable result of years of bad policy and neglect of
prisoners,'' Fama said. ``I think the department still has substantial
exposure to successful legal action in the area of medical and mental health
According to state statistics, the Department of Corrections paid settlements
or judgments in 113 cases this fiscal year. Of those, 85 involved suits
filed by inmates. The remainder were filed by employees and contractors.
It is a settlement trend that many expect to continue. Governor Gray
Davis, for example, has already proposed nearly doubling the legal settlement
fund to about $28.8 million for next fiscal year. Department director Cal
Terhune has gone even further, predicting a worst-case scenario of $39.6
million for legal settlements for the upcoming budget year.
Pamela Smith-Steward, the department's deputy director for legal affairs,
said she hopes ``we've reached the pinnacle and maybe these won't continue
``But it is hard to crystal-ball anything as dynamic as litigation.''
The department has asked the Legislature for nearly $77 million in special
funding to get it through the fiscal year and it was not clear yesterday
how much of the request is for legal settlements.
Lawmakers, meanwhile, want to know what the Department of Corrections
is doing to control its legal costs and ensure these problems do not plague
the 33 prison system in the future.
Senate Majority Leader Richard Polanco, D-Los Angeles, said he will
scrutinize the department's legal exposure with upcoming hearings.
In January, the department paid a record $2.5 million settlement to
the widow and mother of convicted murderer, Mark Adams, who was fatally
shot by San Quentin guards during an inmate brawl on the exercise yard.
``The story is the Adams case shocked them and set them back a little,''
said attorney Leroy Lounibos, who represented Adams' relatives. ``Right
now, the department is impoverished on the street corner with a tin cup.
They are learning the hard way, but they are also doing a lot to try and
avoid this in the future.''
He noted that a court-ordered settlement conference on an inmate case
pending in federal court was canceled in April because of the department's
And recently, the department settled a $2.2 million case involving Vincent
Tulumis, who was paralyzed for life by a bullet shot into a Corcoran exercise
yard in 1993.
New harassment trial for lesbian officer
Thursday, November 15, 2001
A Santa Clara County judge has thrown out a nearly $1 million jury award
to a lesbian police officer who said she was harassed and fired after telling
a supervisor that strip-searching prisoners was giving her anxiety attacks.
Superior Court Judge William F. Martin instead ordered a new trial for
Dawn Goodman, who had told the jury that the male sergeant she consulted
for advice said, "Do you get aroused doing strip searches of women?" Her
attorney said she took two leaves totaling 10 months in 1998 when the department
fired her under what was officially termed a "voluntary" resignation. Goodman
won her case in August, but Martin on Nov. 9 granted the city's request
for a new trial, saying the jury's verdict was not supported by the evidence.
Published on April 6, 2001,
The Sacramento Bee
Suit claims poor inmate care
The state's prisons are accused of civil rights violations for allegedly failing to offer adequate medical services.Already facing a multimillion-dollar tab to pay off sick prisoners' lawsuits, California was hit Thursday with an omnibus civil rights complaint demanding "adequate medical care" for all of the state's 160,000 inmates.
The class action accuses the state of violating inmates' constitutional rights by denying medical care or giving bad care, causing "severe and unnecessary pain, injury and death."
The Davis administration acknowledged serious
Published on May 15, 1999,
Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, CA)
PRISONS TOLD TO FIX "SHOCKING" CONDITIONS
OAKLAND A federal judge ordered the state to fix "shocking and appalling" conditions at some state facilities after hearing from a parade of convicts with disabilities, including one who had to crawl up a flight of stairs to attend a parole hearing.
The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken means the state Board of Prison Terms will have to upgrade facilities and programs to federal standards for all inmates with disabilities.
"These disabled prisoners and. . .
Published on December 31, 1999,
San Jose Mercury News (CA)
FORMER PRISON GUARD WINS LAWSUIT SETTLEMENT
A former prison guard whose testimony triggered investigations of prisoner abuses has won a $70,000 settlement from Contra Costa County after claiming the sheriff's department later rejected his job application.
Richard Caruso and another guard at Corcoran State Prison broke a code of silence in 1994 to expose deadly shootings of inmates at the prison. Their testimony resulted in federal probes of the state prison system.
Caruso said last year in a federal civil rights suit that a. . .
Published on December 7, 1999,
Valley Times (Pleasanton, CA)
EX-GUARD SENTENCED FOR SEX WITH INMATESOAKLAND
A former Dublin prison guard was sentenced Monday to five months behind bars for having sex with female inmates and lying to investigators about the trysts.
Jon C. Hyson, 38, of San Jose will also serve five months in a halfway house and six months of home detention under a sentence imposed by U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken.
Federal prosecutors wanted Hyson to serve the maximum sentence of 16
months in jail. His attorney asked for five months jail time and five months.
Published on June 11, 1999,
Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, CA)
WHISTLEBLOWER TO GET $1.7 MILLION PAYMENT
FRESNO - California has agreed to pay $1.7 million to whistleblower Richard Caruso, a former guard at Corcoran State Prison who broke the code of silence and exposed a pattern of deadly shootings of inmates, only to lose his career.
The settlement came together late Wednesday after months of negotiations in which top officials, including Gov. Gray Davis, had urged a resolution to Caruso's five-year ordeal.
"The nightmare is finally over," Caruso said. "Now I can take. . .
Published on May 27, 1999,
Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, CA)
PRISON LEGAL FUNDS DEPLETEDSACRAMENTO -
The state Department of Corrections has spent its entire fund for legal settlements and judgments well before the end of the fiscal year.
The depletion is due to an unusually busy and expensive run of paying out millions of dollars in awards for inmate deaths and injuries.
As a result, as far back as April 9, state officials were forced to
cancel a court-ordered settlement conference on an inmate lawsuit pending
in federal district court. The declaration came nearly 12 weeks. . .
STATE PAYS $250,000 IN RAPE-CLAIM LAWSUITS
Published on March 7, 2000, Sacramento Bee
A correctional officer who claims she was raped twice by a sergeant at the California Department of Corrections' training facility in Galt has been paid $250,000 by the department to settle her civil rights lawsuits.
The woman's complaints about Sgt. Jack Cherry in 1997 led to the firing
of the longtime correctional officer on charges ranging from dishonesty
to disobedience.A Corrections Department investigation supported her claim
that she was raped by Cherry, noting there was. . .
Published on February 24, 2000,
San Jose Mercury News (CA)
GUARDS SHOOT 13 IN PRISON RIOT PELICAN BAY: SHOTS KILL ONE INMATE AS RACIAL BRAWL RAGES IN EXERCISE YARD.
Pelican Bay State Prison guards shot 13 inmates, killing one, as they struggled to quell a racial brawl Wednesday morning in an exercise yard filled with some of the state's most dangerous criminals.
An additional 35 inmates were treated for less serious injuries -- mostly slashing and stabbing wounds inflicted with the approximately 50 homemade weapons sneaked into the yard in apparent preparation for the melee, officials for the maximum security prison said.
The rioting at the. . .
Published on August 5, 1999,
San Jose Mercury News (CA)
STATE PRISON VIOLENCE PERSISTS, REPORT SHOWS CORRECTIONS DEPARTMENT DEFENDS PREVENTION EFFORTS
Three prisoners were shot to death by guards breaking up inmate fights, and a dozen other inmates died in clashes between prisoners as violence persisted in state prisons last year.
The number of deaths attributed to violence was just one fewer than in 1997, and non-lethal fights among inmates in California's overcrowded prisons increased over the previous year, a recently released state Corrections Department report shows.
While acknowledging new department policies aimed at curbing. . .
Published on August 4, 1998,
San Jose Mercury News (CA)
INMATE ABUSE PROBE WAS STYMIED INVESTIGATORS FRUSTRATED BY GUARDS' IMMUNITY
An internal inquiry into inmate abuse at Corcoran State Prison was stymied after investigators were told that prison guard union representatives had met with top officials in Gov. Pete Wilson's administration, witnesses testified Monday.
After the meeting, Department of Corrections investigators learned they
couldn't make officers talk about allegations that problem inmates were
purposely locked into a cell and subjected to repeated rapes by a fierce
inmate nicknamed the. . .
For Immediate Release
December 31, 1998
CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS SETTLES CIVIL RIGHTS LAWSUIT
The California Department of Corrections (CDC) has settled a civil rights lawsuit brought by the family of an inmate who was fatally shot by a correctional officer during a yard disturbance in 1994. The estate of Mark Adams, Adams’ widow and mother, and their attorney John Houston Scott will share the $2.5 million settlement award.
"We were shocked by the jury’s punitive damage award at such an outrageous level and believe that it was inappropriately awarded," said CDC’s Chief Counsel, Pam Smith-Steward. "The individuals named in this suit were unfairly blamed for the violence that inevitably erupts in a prison setting. In this case, Adams, a convicted murderer and prison escapee, attacked another inmate on the San Quentin yard. He ignored all orders to desist and two warning shots. We do not feel that the taxpayers should pay when officers responded appropriately to inmate-on-inmate violence.
In announcing this settlement, Smith-Steward emphasized that the agreement
to pay the plaintiffs grew from a desire to save the California taxpayers
the risk of additional legal fees required to appeal the judgment or to
retry the case in the event that the defendants’ motion for a new trial
On November 30, 1998, a jury in federal court in San Francisco awarded Adam’s estate, his widow and mothers a total of $2.3 million in compensatory and punitive damages for the fatal shooting. In addition, plaintiffs’ counsel would have claimed more than $1 million in legal fees from the state.
"The two Corrections officials who received punitive damage awards were holding tough jobs," said CDC Director C.A. Terhune. "Very few, if any, employees of other organizations face such difficult situations. These punitive damages have a profound effect on attracting and retaining high-caliber and high-talented corrections individuals. Unfortunately, appeals and other legal attempts to vindicate the honor of the Corrections officials named as defendants will only cost the taxpayers more money over several more years of litigation—for an uncertain result. Since two of them faced personal liability for punitive damages, we and the Office of the Attorney General also felt that a settlement was in the best interests of the state and was reasonable."###