SEATTLE (AP) — Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office and the Department of Social and Health Services have been ordered to pay more than $122,000 in attorneys’ fees for withholding evidence in an ongoing lawsuit.
King County Superior Court Judge Michael Ryan imposed the new costs in a ruling Friday, The Seattle Times reported. The amount is in addition to a previous penalty of $200,000. The judge also said the state may face additional penalties.
In March, Ryan imposed the $200,000 penalty for what he called the state’s “egregious” and “arrogant” failure to turn over nearly 11,000 pages of records to attorneys suing for the alleged gross negligence of a developmentally disabled woman, Emily Tobin, in a family home. she marries in Kent.
Payment of attorney’s fees to the plaintiff’s law firm, Hagens Berman, was included in the March ruling, but the amount was not determined.
Hagens Berman’s lawyers asked for $214,000 for what they argued was “extraordinary” work to uncover discovery abuses. The state had argued for the lower amount of $122,500.
Ryan wrote in rejecting the higher amount that the facts surrounding the state’s misconduct in failing to turn over the records were fairly straightforward.
“It didn’t take an advanced sanctions class to understand the egregious nature of DSHS and AGO conduct,” Ryan wrote.
The state has denied intentional retention of records.
“We respect the judge’s decision,” Brionna Aho, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, told the newspaper. “The team is working hard to determine what happened and address those issues.”
Ryan also appointed Seattle attorney Russell Aoki, at $500 per hour billed to the state, to investigate the discovery violations and determine if the state has withheld any more documents. Depending on what Aoki finds, “additional penalties may be warranted for additional discovery violations,” Ryan said in his Friday order.
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