Allegheny County attorney resigns, others suspended over jail lawsuits

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Following sanctions and lectures by federal judges handling lawsuits filed by jail inmates, Allegheny County Solicitor Andrew Szefi has accepted the resignation of one attorney and suspended others, he said Friday.

Mr. Szefi said that assistant solicitor Craig Maravich, a six-year veteran of the department who bore much of the burden of defending against inmate lawsuits, has resigned. Mr. Maravich was the subject of the judges' wrath at recent hearings.

The solicitor said he will hire a replacement and boost from three to four the number of attorneys assigned to jail-related cases. He said he could add more if needed, but at this point he is not seeking a budget increase.

Mr. Szefi would not say how many attorneys will suffer unpaid suspensions, nor their durations. "They will be served at my discretion at a time when they do not interfere with any case-handling responsibilities," he said.

Mr. Szefi said that he met Wednesday with federal judges -- He declined to say which ones. He said they did not discuss specific cases but only "their experience with [jail] cases and their expectations moving forward. I would characterize the meeting as extremely productive and helpful to me to get their input in deciding the ways to handle these issues."

This month U.S. Magistrate Judge Cynthia Reed Eddy ordered Mr. Maravich to pay for the 21/2 hours opposing counsel spent filing motions demanding the full names of corrections officers who may be witnesses in an inmate death case. She said the county's failure to do so despite earlier orders seemed to be "either neglect or intentional delay tactics."

Judge Eddy earlier this month ordered the county to pay for plaintiff's attorney Wayne Ely's airfare and two nights in a hotel. The county had abruptly cancelled depositions in his case despite her order that they be completed.

In a case involving sexual assaults on an inmate by a former corrections officer, U.S. Magistrate Judge Maureen Kelly ordered the county to provide long-withheld information and to pay $2,000 to plaintiff's attorney Stephen Misko. She also barred the county from using testimony from delayed depositions in any motion it might file seeking to have the lawsuit thrown out.

Mr. Szefi said that an attorney involved in jail cases went on family and medical leave last year, necessitating case transfers that weren't well handled.

"Any shortcomings or mistakes made in this department ultimately rest with me," Mr. Szefi said. "I will be the one personally making sure those issues are addressed moving forward."


Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1542 or on Twitter @richelord. First Published February 21, 2014 11:26 AM

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