RBGG’s Lisa Ells, Michael Bien, Cara Trapani and Jessica Winter have received a California Lawyer of the Year (CLAY) Award for 2020 from the Daily Journal for their work for plaintiffs in Coleman v. Newsom – the class action lawsuit on behalf of all California state prisoners with serious mental illness. The case challenges inadequate mental health care systems that place prisoners at serious risk of death, injury and prolonged suffering.
On December 17, 2019, U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller in Sacramento issued an order in the case finding, after a three-day trial, that chief prison psychiatrist Dr. Michael Golding’s whistleblower allegations were largely true and that California prison officials intentionally presented misleading data to the Court and the Special Master that tended to falsely inflate their level of compliance with court-ordered requirements for adequate psychiatric care. The order is here: Order re Findings from Golding Hearing + Staffing Remedies 12-17-19
In the order Judge Mueller wrote: “In the final analysis, inexplicably, it is apparent defendants lost complete sight of the reasons remediation is required here. Defendants adopted a laser focus in an effort to obtain termination of court supervision, which led to a stark ‘ends justify the means’ approach. Their litigation tactics have wholly missed the significance of the constitutional rights of the thousands of mentally ill persons defendants have in their custody.”
According to Ells, who led the firm’s trial team in the Golding matter, “The case was a game-changer for us. We were hoping for constructive constitutional change in prison mental health care. To find out about their inaccuracies in reporting was truly upsetting to us. We’re hopeful with the new Newsom administration that trust can be rebuilt.”