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PLN Sues CDCR Over Failure to Produce Public Records

On December 17, 2007, Prison Legal News filed suit against the California Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) after the department failed to respond to PLN?s public records request seeking the CDCR?s payouts in prison-related settlements, claims, verdicts and judgments.
The lawsuit, filed in Sacramento Co. Superior Court, names CDCR Secretary James E. Tilton as the defendant.

One of the ways that PLN obtains the verdict and settlement information we report in each issue is through public records requests, since governmental agencies are reluctant to publicize the amount of taxpayer dollars they pay out in cases involving abuse, violation of prisoners? rights, mistreatment of prison employees, etc.

PLN is in the process of obtaining comprehensive settlement and verdict information from a number of correctional agencies, including the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), the District of Columbia DOC, and the CDCR. In June 2006 the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in PLN?s favor in a lawsuit filed over the BOP?s refusal to provide requested records unless an exorbitant fee was paid. PLN v. Lappin, 436 F.Supp.2d 17 (D DC 2006). [See: PLN, Sept. 2006, p.15; Feb. 2007, p.33].

On November 9, 2007, PLN submitted a public records request to CDCR Secretary Tilton pursuant to the California Public Records Act, California Government Code §§ 6250, et seq. The request sought documents related to settlements or judgments paid in tort, civil rights and overdetention claims or suits filed against the CDCR by prisoners, employees, visitors and contractors. After receiving no response within the statutorily-mandated ten days, PLN commenced suit to obtain the public records that the CDCR was legally obligated to disclose.

?This lawsuit is an important step towards government accountability and determining how well managed California?s prisons are,? said PLN editor Paul Wright. ?As taxpayers, we should be concerned with how well, or poorly, CDCR spends its multi-billion dollar budget. Unfortunately, litigation in the civil justice system is often the only means by which prison officials are held accountable.?

PLN is seeking a declaratory judgment and an injunction requiring the CDCR to produce the requested records, as well as attorney fees and costs. PLN is ably represented by attorneys Sanford Jay Rosen, Lori Rifkin and Kenneth Walczak with the San Francisco law firm of Rosen, Bien & Galvan LLP. See: Prison Legal News v. Tilton, Superior Court, Sacramento County, Case No. 34-2007-00883573.

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Related legal case

Prison Legal News v. Tilton

The complaint in the case is available in the briefbank.