Silence is golden — especially when it's someone else's gold

When a civil case is settled out of court, in many cases there is an agreement from both sides not to disclose the terms of that settlement. The party that wins the money agrees to not discuss the matter any more or how much they received, and the other side is spared any future embarassment. It’s a slightly distasteful practice, but it’s pretty much accepted around the world.

In Massachusetts, though, that principle is being perverted. A certain institution has been the target of numerous lawsuits for discrimination and civil-rights violations. In many of those cases, they were settled out of court, and confidentiality agreements were a key part of those settlements. But the cost of those suits has become public, and in the last two years they’ve paid out $1.8 million dollars to keep their dirty laundry out of the public record.

How do we know the cost of these confidential settlements? Because they came out of taxpayer funds. You see, the institution that has settled these lawsuits against it was the Massachusetts Judicial System.

That’s right. The very same court system that is charged with insuring justice has been repeatedly accused of gross violations against employees, and has repeatedly settled those charges quietly.

And just to add insult to injury, they haven’t had to pay the price. They’ve just passed the cost of their improprieties on to the Massachusetts taxpayers.

And just what has been done to the officials who actually committed those original acts that triggered the lawsuits? How were they sanctioned for their misconduct? Beats the hell out of me, because thanks to the confidentiality terms, I doubt we’ll ever even hear the full details of the allegations. But I don’t recall too many stories of judges or other court officials being disciplined for abusing their employees.

Accountability? That’s for OTHER people, I guess.

Chirac and De Villepin Wave the White Flag of Surrender
The rules of the road

One Response

  1. kbiel April 10, 2006