Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson's office and the Department of Social and Health Services were ordered to pay $122,000 in attorney's fees by King County Superior Court Judge Michael Ryan. This penalty was in addition to a prior sanction of $200,000 for withholding crucial evidence in an ongoing lawsuit.
The case involved allegations of severe neglect suffered by a developmentally disabled woman named Emily Tobin in a Kent family home. The state's failure to provide nearly 11,000 pages of records to the plaintiff's attorneys disappointed the judge, resulting in the sanctions. The plaintiff's law firm, Hagens Berman, requested $214,000 in attorney's fees for uncovering the discovery abuses. The state argued for a lower amount of $122,500.
Judge Ryan dismissed the higher amount, stating that the state's misconduct was evident. To investigate the discovery violations and the potential concealment of additional documents, Seattle attorney Russell Aoki was appointed by Judge Ryan at a cost of $500 per hour. Depending on Aoki's findings, further sanctions may be imposed.
These legal blunders came at a crucial time for Attorney General Bob Ferguson's gubernatorial campaign. As a three-term Democrat, his reputation and political aspirations were at stake due to the consequences of the state's actions.