The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

February 4, 2013
Correctional officers lose bid to flip $5 million defamation case

100609 gavel.jpgA federal appellate court has ruled that a $5 million judgement against California's prison officers' union will stand, brushing aside the group's arguments that the sum is excessive and that a federal jury's verdict in the case was wrong.

"We're disappointed that our appeal was unsuccessful, but we'll comply with the court and move forward," California Correctional Peace Officers Association spokesman JeVaughn Baker said this morning.

Does that mean the union will continue the court fight?

"We'll confer with our attorneys to determine the viability of our remaining options," Baker said.

Still, the decision issued Friday could have been worse for CCPOA. Plaintiff Brian Dawe had contended that he should receive more than twice as much money, but the appellate court disagreed.

Dawe successfully argued during a 2010 federal jury trial that CCPOA officials had ruined his name and his livelihood in a business dispute. The jury awarded a total $12 million in damages, but presiding Judge Lawrence Karlton said that sum was excessive and reduced it to $4.96 million.

While CCPOA appealed, Dawe filed his own appeal to the Ninth Circuit, asking that it restore the jury's award.

CCPOA said it didn't have the resources to secure the judgement during appeal, so Karlton ordered the union put money into a court-controlled escrow account. Currently, there is $3,000,000 on deposit, along with union property securing the balance -- including the deed for CCPOA's West Sacramento headquarters.

If the union can't pay the full amount, those assets would be used to pay the award. Baker said this morning that it won't come to that.

"We're solvent," Baker said. "We have the funds on hand."

The union has 14 days to seek rehearing. CCPOA attorneys also could ask the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the case, which would delay payment but carries the risk of higher litigation costs, including Dawe's legal bills should the the union continue to lose.

U.S. Ninth Circuit Court Memorandum by

IMAGE: www.yolocourts.ca.gov

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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at jortiz@sacbee.com.

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