DOJ may have agreed to settle for reasons beyond the unethical behavior of its lawyers. The court had issued an order saying that Justice was “misreading” the applicable statute when it tried to claim the county could be found vicariously liable for conditions at the jail. “There is no support for this proposition in the statute or caselaw,” the court observed.
Erie County Executive Chris Collins hailed the settlement as a victory because “the county government will not have to implement expensive and unnecessary improvements in inmate care” that SLS had demanded in its lawsuit. The settlement agreement requires Erie County to inform the Justice Department of any improvements it makes in its prison facility, but the “Justice Department will not be able to reject or affect the changes,” Collins noted.
This is clearly a major loss for the Special Litigation Section. It would never enter an agreement giving DOJ no say-so over changes made in the county’s prison facilities unless the Department knew it could not prove its case in court.
As Collins told the Buffalo News, Justice “went to court and made serious allegations against Erie County, presenting them as fact. Now, after many months of discovery, the [Justice Department] could never provide proof to legitimize its allegations of civil rights violations.”
But then, that’s par for the course. The Special Litigation Section has a history of bringing unjustified, unwarranted, and frivolous claims. Considering its most recent hires, that record will probably just get worse.