A U.S. District Court judge granted sanctions against former Del Norte County District Attorney Michael Riese last week for failing to pay court-ordered attorneys’ fees to two defendants in his lawsuit against the county.
Riese sought more than $1.5 million in a 2012 lawsuit that named members of the Del Norte County Sheriff’s Office, the District Attorney’s Office and Crescent City Police Department, claiming that now-suspended DA Jon Alexander sought to exact revenge against Riese for firing Alexander from the DA’s Office in 2006.
In September 2013, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that Riese failed to provide enough evidence to prove some of his claims against Alexander and sheriff’s Deputy Richard Griffin. The judge ordered Riese to pay Alexander’s and Griffin’s attorney’s fees, which totaled $11,766.25, within 45 days of the ruling.
On Thursday, Judge William H. Orrick tacked on an additional $2,548.50 to the original amount, ordering Riese to pay $14,314.75 within 45 days of the order. According to court documents, if Riese can’t pay within 45 days he must file a declaration establishing his assets and liabilities within 15 days of the ruling.
According to court documents, Riese’s payments to Alexander and Griffin should have been made by Oct. 17 and Nov. 4. On Oct. 29, Alexander’s attorney wrote to Riese’s lawyer requesting that fees be paid within seven days, but received no response. On Nov. 20, Griffin’s attorney requested that Riese make a payment, but received no response. The defendants’ lawyers made additional requests for payment Nov. 22 and Dec. 4, but received no response from Riese’s attorney, according to court documents.
On Dec. 17, the defendants moved for sanctions against Riese for failing to pay the attorney’s fees. Riese was given until Dec. 31 to file an opposition, but did not file it until Feb. 21, 2014.
Riese’s opposition stated it was filed late due to a new lawyer taking over the case in December and a delay in obtaining file contents from his previous lawyer.
The defendants incurred $1,142.50 in attorney’s fees for their opening brief in support of their motion for sanctions and an additional $1,406 for their reply brief.
The judge ruled that Riese’s opposition to the defendants’ motion for sanctions was “without merit,” and that Riese should have requested more time to respond.
The original attorney in Riese’s lawsuit, Brian Claypool, withdrew from the case last October. Claypool’s motion to withdraw cited a conflict of interest and a breakdown in attorney-client relations.
Riese’s original lawsuit claimed that his civil rights were violated by unreasonable search and seizure, malicious prosecution, fabrication of evidence, conspiracy to interfere with civil rights, intentional infliction of emotional distress and supervisory liability for constitutional violations.