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Legal Costs For Arizona Prison Health Care Lawsuit Exceed $21M

Attorneys for the Arizona Department of Corrections say they are appealing the  most recent contempt fine of $1.1 million dollars from a federal judge for failing to provide constitutional health care in state prisons. U.S. District Court Judge Roslyn Silver levied the fines against DOC for failing to meet performance benchmarks the department agreed to more than six years ago to settle a prison health care class-action lawsuit, Parsons v. Ryan.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals  ruled against the department in 2020 when it appealed a similar, $1.4 million contempt fine.

Judge Silver has been critical of the department’s expensive, years-long legal response to the settlement.

“Despite the outlays in fines and attorneys’ fees, Defendants’ counsel continues to litigate each and every issue to the maximum extent possible, including frivolous ones,” Silver wrote in a previous order. “Counsel files repetitive motions, close-to-baseless appeals, and petitions for writs of certiorari. It is unclear whether Arizona taxpayers are directly footing the bill for this conduct but it is time for those responsible for this litigation to reexamine whether the six years of litigation represents a wise use of resources going forward.”

Records provided to KJZZ show the department has spent more than $21 million in legal costs on the Parsons lawsuit since Fiscal Year 2012. More than $10 million has been paid to outside counsel, the Phoenix-based law firm Struck, Love, Bojanowski & Acedo PLC.

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Jimmy Jenkins is a senior field correspondent at KJZZ and a contributor to NPR’s Election 2020 and Criminal Justice station collaborations. His work has been featured on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Marketplace, Here and Now, The Takeaway and NPR Newscasts.Originally from Terre Haute, Indiana, Jenkins has a B.S. in criminology from Indiana State University and a master’s degree in journalism from Indiana University.Much of his reporting has focused on the criminal justice system. Jenkins has reported on Tasers, body cameras, use of force, jail privatization, prison health care and the criminal contempt trial of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.