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MDOC Sanctioned for Ex Parte Contacts with Prisoners in Court Cases

Over eight years ago, lawyers from the Michigan Attorney General's office sent interrogatories directly to prisoners about the Knop v. Johnson case without notifying the plaintiffs' lawyers. Judge Enslen entered a protective order on February 19, 1986, and he later relied upon that conduct by the defendant's counsel as one factor justifying a higher award of attorney fees to the plaintiffs' lawyers in that case. Knop v. Johnson, 712 F Supp 571, 586 (W.D. Mich. 1989).

In April 1994, the Michigan Attorney General and Department of Corrections sent one of their experts on classification, Jack Alexander of the New York DOC, to four Michigan prisons where he interviewed or tried to interview a total of sixteen male and female prisoners about the classification issues in the case of Cain et al v MDOC, No. 88-61119-AZ, a statewide class action case before the Ingham County Circuit Court, Hon. James R. Giddings. The MDOC did not notify the plaintiffs' representatives about these interviews, and Mr. Alexander did not make clear to the prisoners that he was working against their interests.

The Cain plaintiffs moved for a protective order and for sanctions. The court held a hearing on May 9, 1994, and granted the motion. On May 24, 1994, the judge signed an order which directed that the Defendants and those in their employ shall have no contact with plaintiff class members regarding matters at issue in this case without first obtaining a court order or the permission of the plaintiffs' representatives. He also ordered that Mr. Alexander shall turn over to the plaintiffs representatives (1) the names and numbers of all plaintiff class members interviewed by him during April 1994, (2) all notes and reports made by Mr. Alexander concerning those ex-parte interviews, (3) a description of the substance of all those ex-parte interviews. And the judge ordered that any and all evidence obtained through the ex-parte interviews shall not be admissible at trial nor shall it be relied upon by Mr. Alexander in formulating his opinion as to any matter at issue in the case.

Wouldn't it be nice if the government and its lawyers followed the rules?

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Related legal case

Cain v. MDOC