pected this time as well is that COPS and similar groups will get a fair hearing, that the legislature will listen more closely than it has in the past. Dwayne Holman says it will happen and so does Tom Scott. “By virtue of the governor’s office,” Holman says, “they [COPS] will get a better hearing than they’ve had in the past.” Holman also points out that COPS doesn’t expect to get everything it asks for this session, but that the group is laying a groundwork for sessions to come. And in this session, Holman says, “Mark is going to do something on school equalization. COPS is prodding him to do it, and he’s going to do it.” James Williamson, a spokesman for soon-to-be Speaker Gib Lewis, was noncommittal about the specifics of the COPS proposal, but he said that his boss has long had populist sympathies, that he [Lewis] used to be a poor boy himself. He also warned that the influence of groups like COPS, groups with some success on the local level, “will tend to dissipate when they move into a larger arena.” That may happen, but as COPS President Hernandez told Lewis, Hobby, and White, “We are pleased by what we have heard but we are not naive. We are prepared to fight every inch of the way. There is no effort too great or too time consuming that will deter us from reaching our goal.” J. H. In the article about efforts to stay the execution of Charlie Brooks \(TO, torney General Waggoner Carr representing the Texas Trial Lawyers in testimony before the Board of Pardons and Paroles. He was actually representing the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. Running Up the Tab on Prison Rights By Paul Coggins Dallas Ruiz v. Estelle, the Texas prison lawsuit, is proving to be as resilient as Rocky Balboa. The first match, refereed by United States District Judge William Wayne Justice, was clearly won by the plaintiff-prisoners. The rematch before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ended, many observers believe, in a draw. Now comes the really nasty fighting, the setting of attorneys’ fees for the prisoners’ lawyers. On November 20, 1982, Judge Justice awarded legal fees in excess of $1.6 million to the plaintiffs’ lawyers, the bulk of the award going to lead counsel William Bennett Turner and his associate Donna Brorby. Immediately Governor-elect Mark White expressed his intention of appealing the judge’s award. Here’s a ringside prediction that, unless the challenge is withdrawn, he will lose round three decisively after further bleeding. the state coffers. Unfortunately White may feel that, to save face, the litigation must be prolonged. Throughout his successful gubernatorial campaign, White had touted the Ruiz case as a victory for the state in general and his staff in particular. In a class action suit such as Ruiz, a court typically awards attorneys’ fees to the Paul Coggins is a Dallas writer and attorney. plaintiffs’ counsel only if the plaintiffs have been successful to some extent. By repeatedly overstating his success on appeal, White has made it difficult to admit that the Fifth Circuit decided many issues in favor of the inmates. Granted, the Fifth Circuit reversed several of Judge Justice’s orders, including the requirement that only one prisoner be housed in a cell. The appeals court, however, accepted the district judge’s general finding that Texas prisons were in violation of the cruel-and-unusual clause of the Constitution and his more specific findings that Texas prisons were dangerous and seriously overcrowded. In light of the issues won by the prisoners at the bargaining table or before the courts, White is unlikely to convince the Fifth Circuit that he was the undisputed victor. Of course, former Attorney General White may argue that, even if some award of attorneys’ fees is justified, Judge Justice’s order for the state to pay $1.6 million is excessive. As regards the reasonableness of the award, Clements may have boxed his successor into a corner. The $1.6 million fee may sound exorbitant, but it must be remembered that the award will be shared among about a dozen lawyers, some of whom have participated in the case since 1974. The expense of the Texas prison lawsuit mounted through years of discovery, a trial of 159 days \(making Ruiz the longest prison case in United More embarrassing for White is the $1 million bill from Fulbright and Jaworski, a private Houston law firm, for its eightmonth participation in the Ruiz appeal. White initially resisted the hiring of a private firm to aid on appeal, interpreting the move as an attempt by Clements to question the attorney general’s competence and a vote of no-confidence by the Texas Department of Corrections in the attorney general’s staff. Still, the fact remains that the state hired a private firm which has billed the state $1 million for its limited role in the case. How can the state fight an award of $1.6 million to the plaintiffs’ attorneys, who went the distance, when the state owes $1 million to a Houston firm which merely assisted White’s staff with the appeal? The prospect looms of another round of expensive litigation, with a purse of $1.6 million. Before White’s successor, Jim Mattox, climbs into the ring, the taxpayers should send him a message: Don’t go for it. 0 Good books in every field JENKINS PUBLISHING CO. The Pemberton Press John H. Jenkins, Publisher Box 2085 Austin 78768 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3
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