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Testimony from prison psychiatrist whistleblower may be postponed

California’s top prison psychiatrist may not have to testify Monday about allegations that he uncovered corrections officials providing misleading or inaccurate information to a federal judge, but he may be called later for a hearing on whether data provided by the state constitutes “fraud on the court.”

That was the latest twist Wednesday in an ongoing legal battle between lawyers for Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration and attorneys for prison inmates over whether corrections officials have been fudging data on how well they are providing psychiatric care to prisoners.

U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller held a telephone conference Wednesday morning to address efforts by state lawyers to stop Dr. Michael Golding from testifying at a hearing Monday, and she indicated she may be willing to postpone such an appearance.

Golding has compiled a 160-page whistleblower report alleging that colleagues in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation have provided misleading or inaccurate information to the court and the inmates’ attorneys.

Mueller, who has ordered state officials not to retaliate against Golding and not to investigate his claims until she determines how they may proceed, indicated in the hearing that she may hold off on calling him to testify Monday if he provides a sworn declaration by Friday that the contents of his report are true.

Golding attorney Wendy Musell said he would be willing to do so, adding, “My understanding is he stands by everything he put in the report.”

Musell said she also wanted reassurances from the court that he will not be subjected to retaliation by CDCR officials.

“For us, there’s no question he’s a whistleblower,” she said.

Lawyers for the state had objected to Golding testifying Monday, saying in court filings that orders from Mueller have precluded them from even talking to corrections officials. They filed an emergency appeal Tuesday with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to stop Monday’s testimony, saying they needed time to prepare for it and to investigate his claims.

“Since last week, we’ve been paralyzed in our ability to represent our clients,” attorney Andrew Gibson said, adding that Mueller’s order against them investigating Golding’s claims has violated attorney-client privilege.

The judge said she is satisfied that state officials are taking the allegations seriously and that Golding may be called to testify later to determine whether “fraud has been committed on the court.” She also said that she may consider whether to appoint an independent monitor to oversee data filed with the court by corrections officials.

Golding’s report remains secret for the time being in the hands of lawyers and the judge, but Mueller said she expected some or all of the report may become public “sooner or later.”

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