Government Law

Law Prof Named Prison Healthcare Czar in Calif.

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A federal judge abruptly fired California’s prison healthcare czar last week and appointed a law professor, known for his ability to turn around troubled government agencies, to take his place.

U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson of San Francisco dismissed Robert Sillen, whom he’d appointed to run the state’s troubled prison healthcare system two years ago, and handed the reins to J. Clark Kelso, director of the governmental affairs program at McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Judge Henderson’s involvement comes from an earlier ruling in which the judge ruled that medical conditions were so bad so as to violate the constitutional rights of prisoners.

Editorials in the Los Angeles Times and Modesto Bee hailed and criticized the leadership change.

The Times called Sillen “confrontational” and “a bully,” but did exactly what was called for by calling attention to a problem that’s not going away. Still, the appointment of Kelso, the Times adds, is “an inspired choice.”

“Kelso is no shrinking violet, and state officials who have been around for even a few years realize that they will not be permitted to slow their pace or avoid significant spending,” the Times opines.

But the Bee considers Kelso’s appointment “worrisome,” editorializing that “J. Clark Kelso is a bureaucratic insider with no background in health care who has made a career of rescuing scandal-ridden state agencies and then stepping aside.”

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