Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling in jail abuse cases has state's county officials concerned

BY WILLIAM CRUM wcrum@opubco.com Published: February 26, 2013

Defense costs fall to local authorities and, ultimately, to the taxpayers, he said.

And liability limits that protect taxpayers against windfall judgments won't apply, Vaughn said.

J. Spencer Bryan, a Tulsa lawyer whose firm does civil rights work, said Bosh came to the law firm with his story. Bryan used the Oklahoma Open Records Act to get the video and, “It checked out.”

After Bryan's firm filed suit against the Cherokee County Governmental Building Authority, which operates the jail, the federal court agreed to ask for clarification of state law, Bryan said. Bosh's case will continue in federal court, he said.

“I think it's a substantial victory for the people of Oklahoma to ensure that counties are taking the proper and necessary steps to train and supervise employees,” Bryan said.

“If a county doesn't want to expose itself to a judgment, train your employees,” he said. “Do the right thing, hire the right employees, supervise them.”

Larry Derryberry, counsel to the Association of County Commissioners of Oklahoma and their insurance group, said counties train their personnel and, “They do know right from wrong.”

Derryberry, a former state attorney general, said the ruling gives governments “some pause to reflect on the import of this decision.”

Long-standing practice has protected detainees' rights while keeping costs in check, said Derryberry and Gayle Ward, the association's executive director.

The Supreme Court's ruling earlier this month threatens to shift the balance away from holding the line on costs, they said.

“It gets passed on to the taxpayers,” Ward said.