Thursday, January 22, 2009

Taking the Gloves Off

On January 15, 2009, Clark Kelso, the Federal Receiver in charge of reforming California's prison medical system, released his latest "Tri-Annual Report."

From the report's opening lines, it's clear that the fight over the prison medical system is entering a particularly bitter and contentious phase.

Kelso's anger with the State is apparent from the opening paragraph: "Since the reporting, period, the Governor and the Attorney General of the State of Calfornia executed a 'flip-flop' and 'bait and switch.' The immediate victims of the State's turnabout are the four federal courts and respect for the rule of law; the ultimate victims are the tens of thousands of class members who are waiting for constitutionally required improvements in their medical care as well as the citizens of the state of California."

Kelso proceeds to outline a list of frustrations and failings. The State has "refus[ed] to work with the federal court to develop a funding mechanism" for reform. It's response to the budget crisis has been "scattershot, unpredictable and inappropriate." It's proposals for corrective action "violate federal court orders and will, in both the short and long-term, serve only to increase existing State funding shortfalls."

The report continues: "No purpose is served attempting to prove the personal or political motivations which have led the Governor to renege on his Administration's assurances to pursue a public-private financing transaction to support the Receiver's construction program if legislation failed, or which now drive the Attorney General to attempt to rewrite the history of four federal court class action cases and wage a war against district court orders to which the State has previously agreed. However, the threat to the orderly administration of justice from their actions cannot be ignored. Court orders are not Hollywood contracts where . . . promises to perform are cheaply given and then ignored when convenient. . . . There are appropriate legal processs for challenging and reconsidering court orders; however, flat out disobedience of courts orders is not the appropriate course of action."

Hearings on the state of the prison medical system are expected to resume before a three-judge panel during the first week of February.

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