During an appearance on APTV's "Capitol Journal," Attorney General Steve Marshall addressed the backlog of litigation facing the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) and the costs to the taxpayers that have accumulated as a result.
Among the many issues is a 2020 lawsuit from the Department of Justice alleging Eighth Amendment violations, among other abuses by the ADOC in Alabama prison facilities.
Marshall told host Todd Stacy he foresees "an end in sight." However, he rejected a possible Department of Justice takeover of Alabama's prisons as a remedy.
"I think there's definitely an end in sight, and I think an opportunity to resolve this is something that the state always should consider," he said. "But there's more than just simply the systemic case. Our office does over 80% of the litigation on behalf of the Department of Corrections — individual cases that are filed against the department. It's the systemic case, though, that probably gathers the most attention. Let's acknowledge in that case we have the Department of Justice. We have well-funded groups from outside the state that are initiating this. And Alabama needs the capacity to respond. Not only is my office involved, but in this situation, outside counsel, who has very specific expertise in national cases because, let's leave no doubt behind — what the Department of Justice wants to do is to be able to take over the Alabama Department of Corrections. That's not the remedy that we believe is appropriate."
Marshall explained that he was not willing to allow a so-called consent decree that would designate the Department of Justice as the ultimate authority in overseeing and correcting the alleged issues that are regarded as unconstitutional.
"I can tell you this, and I've been very firm from the very beginning — and this was long before the litigation was filed — is that I'm not going to allow Alabama willing to enter into a consent decree," he said. "I see that there's precedent for that, and one of the best things that Jeff Sessions did during his time as attorney general was a memo to the Department of Justice condemning consent decrees as a whole. They're not a good vehicle for settlement. The only people that are really valued through that are the consultants and the third parties that get rich from those consent decrees. And we don't see the true value go to the institution it's trying to reform. But there are ways to resolve cases absent a consent decree. We remain open to that. But we're going to defend Alabama's interests with regard to this litigation moving forward."
Earlier this month, ADOC legal counsel Mandy Spiers told the Joint Contract Review Committee that Marshall's office had "prohibited" a settlement on the matter. Marshall said that was not the case.
"[W]e've never stopped any settlement," Marshall added. "Again, I've been clear about a consent decree. And yet, in discussing that legal strategy with our client, we've always been on the same accord. We're going to make sure we defend Alabama's interests clearly. If there's a settlement that makes sense for the State of Alabama, then we'll make sure we pursue that, just as we do in litigation for all other agencies."
Jeff Poor is the editor in chief of 1819 News and host of "The Jeff Poor Show," heard Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-noon on Mobile's FM Talk 106.5. To connect or comment, email jeff.poor@1819News.com or follow him on Twitter @jeff_poor.
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