ALLEGHANY–With the recent decision of the California Appeals Court, the price of attempting to redress a perceived grievance has gone up.
Someone will have to address this unintended consequence: but who’s got the money to even ask the question?
The issue arises out of the Sixteen to One’s lawsuit against the group of carpetbagging lawyers who took advantage of a resentful, lame duck district attorney to prosecute a mine accident as a murder case. The murder case was dismissed: the mine and CEO Mike Miller then sued the attorneys’ corporate employer for illegal prosecution.
The Appeals Court short-circuited that suit, declaring those lawyers duly appointed and therefore immune from liability. The Appeals Court discovered a heretofore undiscovered First Amendment-recognized right to prosecute people for murder and lie to grand juries.
This ruling came as a surprise to many people who evidently studied an older version of the Constitution.
The Sixteen and Miller were ordered to pony up $117,000 to pay CDAA for its defense.
This, notes Klaus Kolbthe mine’s attorney, has serious ramifications to the public and legal precedent.
In essence, Kolb notes, the Court of Appeals held the CDAA attorneys were de facto government officials, and immune from prosecution. Thus, the Sixteen’s lawsuit was actually a claim against the government.
Essentially, the court is letting CDAA have it both ways: it is a government agency with immunity for prosecutorial misdeeds, but a private entity when it comes to proving it is a government agency.
Requiring a citizen to pay the government’s expenses in an unsuccessful attempt to redress a grievance stands the historic fundament of the United States on its head.
Is it only the rich who can risk challenging the government in court?
In this case it certainly is: the risk for Miller to bring a constitutional challenge is enormous.
Inasmuch as the Third District Court of Appeal showed no sympathy, in fact impatience, with the mine’s situation, it is unlikely to reconsider its ruling. So any appeal would have to be made to the California, and possibly United States Supreme Court.
Lawyers with the standing to advance this sort of appeal do not come cheap. And if Miller and the mine are unsuccessful, they would probably end up having to pay CDAA’s lawyer fees.
Furthermore, by opening this can of worms, CDAA might well get another shot at bigger damages. That corporation had asked the court to force the mine and Miller to pay $258,000 as the costs of its legal defense. Miller, personally, was liable for only $14,000 of the award. It is not impossible another court would make Miller and the mine jointly responsible for the full amount.
There are other, technical issues which the Appeals Court ignored in its hurry to expand California law into new territory. Miller and many attorneys, consider this an affront.
Miller, an idealistic if naive man, is outraged that “the law” which he had always seen as his protector was rewritten to protect malefactors.
He will probably have to learn to live with his outrage. He has less than 60 days to realize he isn’t rich enough to do anything about it.
Don Russell, Editor