Montgomery County’s cost to defend against federal lawsuits alleging prisoner mistreatment climbed higher this week.
Commissioners on Tuesday approved spending another $100,000 on outside legal counsel, this time to defend Sheriff Phil Plummer in a class-action suit seeking relief from overcrowding and other conditions alleged at the county jail.
The suit filed last month against the sheriff by named plaintiffs Nicholas Alston and Keith Barber as well as others cited a November 2016 jail inspection report that said the recommended inmate population is 443 but that 791 people were being housed. Plummer last month said the jail has 910 beds, of which 130 are going empty more recently.
More than a dozen lawsuits – including two related to deaths — have been filed against the Montgomery County Jail staff in the last five years. The costs to the county and its insurers are expected to reach $10 million or more, according to Montgomery County Commissioner Debbie Lieberman. Of the at least 13 lawsuits, one has gone to trial, one has been dismissed and four have been settled out of court. The others, including the overcrowding case, are pending.
About $1.4 million has been paid out so far, including $888,000 in settlements to four plaintiffs.
The commission’s resolution Tuesday will pay attorneys Susan Blasik-Miller and Kelly Schroeder and their law firm Freund, Freeze and Arnold up to $100,000 through Dec. 31 to represent the sheriff in the most recent case.