Crime - Sacto 911

Should Gov. Brown have to answer investigator’s questions about prison psychiatry care?

Attorney discusses claim that state is misleading federal court on mental health care

Michael Bien, the lead attorney for 30,000 California inmates who need mental health care, discusses the accusation by the state's chief prison psychiatrist that state officials are providing misleading and inaccurate data on how it treats inmates.
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Michael Bien, the lead attorney for 30,000 California inmates who need mental health care, discusses the accusation by the state's chief prison psychiatrist that state officials are providing misleading and inaccurate data on how it treats inmates.

Lawyers for the state are pushing back on a federal judge’s plan to appoint a special investigator to look into whether correction officials provided false or misleading data to the court, arguing that giving the expert authority to interview Gov. Jerry Brown goes too far.

At issue are claims by Dr. Michael Golding, the state prison system’s chief psychiatrist, who has accused his own employers of providing misleading data on the amount and quality of psychiatric care inmates are receiving in California prisons.

U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller has said she wants former Sacramento U.S. Attorney Charles “Chuck” Stevens to conduct the probe and to have broad authority to interview top officials of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation as well as Brown and his staff.

But lawyers for the state, who have resisted the idea of appointing an independent expert, filed objections late Thursday to Mueller’s plans, saying she is abusing her authority and dragging Brown into the case for no reason.

“(N)owhere in Dr. Golding’s allegations or its attachments does he suggest, let alone allege, that Gov. Brown has any personal knowledge or is a fact witness,” the state’s lawyers argued. “Nor have any of the parties provided the court with information suggesting that Gov. Brown was involved in the collection or reporting of CDCR’s data.”

The state’s lawyers wrote that they “strongly object” to the plan and asked Mueller, who has proposed that the state also pay the cost of the investigation, to modify “or prohibit the interview of the governor or other high-ranking state officials.”

Mueller has made plain the fact that she plans to appoint an independent expert and gave both the state and lawyers for the inmates time to file any objections they may have to Stevens filling that role.

State lawyers said they see no potential conflict of interest issues with Stevens’ appointment, but argued that he may not have the technical knowledge or experience to answer her questions about the data to be reviewed. They also have argued that such an appointment is unnecessary.

Lawyers for the inmates have filed documents indicating that they support Stevens’ appointment.

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