One of the major problems with the civil justice system in America is the fact that far too often the wrongdoer skates free while innocent parties are stuck with paying the damages. This injustice always happens when the wrongdoers are government operatives and the innocent parties are the hapless taxpayer which, of course, includes you.
Case in point:
Dona Ana County New Mexico announced recently that it reached a $15.5 million settlement to end the legal battle over the case of a man who was held in solitary confinement for two years without a trial and was so neglected that he took out his own tooth.
Former county inmate Stephen R. Slevin spent 22 months in the county jail after being arrested for drunken driving but was never convicted, according to his lawsuit. He ended up in solitary confinement after someone noted he was suicidal. He was so neglected he was left in his cell for months at a time, had untreated dental problems and toenails that grew so long they curled under his feet.
A lower court decision had upheld a $22 million jury verdict and judgment against the county, which was one of the largest federal civil rights judgments in history. The county appealed the award to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which ordered mediation resulting in the final settlement.
This is certainly an egregious case of gross negligence and I’m not saying that Mr. Slevin should go without the reasonable and proper compensation he deserves Note, however, that the actual perpetrators of this outrageous wrongdoing were not part of the lawsuit, are not even mentioned in this article, and are skating completely free from any responsibility for their conduct.
When this plaintiff sued Dona Ana County New Mexico he was really suing the taxpayers of that government jurisdiction, and it is therefore the taxpayers who are on the hook for the entire &15.5 million; an amount which by the way is the palpably excessive result of juror anger and emotional outrage over what happened to this inmate.
The county's board of commissioners said in a statement that it regrets the harm Slevin suffered while in custody between August 2005 and June 2007.
I’m sure they do regret it but as a matter of fact they are not the actual responsible parties either. "Over the past seven years, Dona Ana County has made significant improvements to detention center staffing, training, facilities and procedures," the county said. "Dona Ana County is committed to ensuring consistent and appropriate treatment of every detainee in its care."
"This settlement, although very large, does not give back to Mr. Slevin what was taken from him, but if it prevents others from enduring the pain and suffering he was subjected to, then the fight has been worthwhile," said Slevin’s attorney "I only hope they follow through on their promise to do better."
Oh, as much as I sympathize with him, I think there are plenty of low life’s among us who might be more than happy to endure what Mr. Slavin did for a payday of $15 million taxpayer dollars at the end of the rainbow. I’m sure that his attorney is overjoyed about it too since he’ll no doubt be collecting a third of the settlement – a whopping $5million plus from the taxpayer trough.
This county jail has an annual budget of $23.5 million, up from $12.7 million in 2006. Most of the money has gone toward improving staff, training and inmate access to care and services.
Where do you suppose the county jail gets that money for its annual budget?
From the taxpayers, that’s where -- from innocent people like you who did no harm to this man – they’re the ones who will suffer the consequences the real wrongdoers caused. Maybe the miscreants were fired from their county jobs; maybe not. In any case they are not on the hook for what they did. They’re going to skate free.
A proper civil justice system would punish these wrongdoers in proportion to the extent of their conduct. They deserve a taste of the medicine they administered to this wronged inmate. A few months of solitary confinement in the same jail would be fine for starters.
Following that they should never be allowed a position of public trust again for the rest of their miserable lives. They should be assigned menial jobs from which 25% of their pay should be withheld each month for the benefit of their victim until he is fully and fairly compensated or until they die, whichever shall occur first. Their debt to him should not be dischargeable in bankruptcy, and they should not be entitled to government welfare if they choose not to work.
That is how we can prevent incidents like this from happening in the future.
You should not be forced to pay for the wrongdoing of others.