California Gov. Jerry Brown is aggressively challenging federal court oversight of the state prison system by highlighting what he calls a costly conflict of interest: Private law firms representing inmates and the judges’ hand-picked authorities benefit financially by keeping the cases alive, the Associated Press reports. A tally from three state agencies shows taxpayers have spent $182 million for inmates’ attorneys and court-appointed authorities over the past 15 years. The payments cover a dozen lawsuits filed over the treatment of state prisoners, parolees, and incarcerated juveniles.
The AP sought the tally after the governor began using court filings and public appearances to call for an end to two major lawsuits that have forced the state to spend billions of dollars improving its medical and mental health care for prison inmates. Brown says the complaints are expensive, frivolous, and motivated by attorneys’ own financial interest. “They don’t want to go away,” he said, standing behind a stack of court documents. “I mean, the name of the game here is, `Come to Sacramento and get your little piece of the pie.'”