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Countywide : Judge Drops Charge Against County

The judge whose ruling forced major changes in disciplinary procedures at Orange County’s Juvenile Hall dropped a contempt charge against the county after juvenile rights advocates said the facility is operating within court orders.

Superior Court Judge Linda H. McLaughlin abided by the wishes of the California Youth Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union in dropping the contempt order, which charged that the county overstepped its bounds in restraining troublesome youths.

The judge told attorneys for both sides that they and the court owe a “tremendous debt of gratitude” to Michael D. Pursell, the court-appointed liaison with Juvenile Hall in Orange.

“When Pursell first started going over to Juvenile Hall, he had some problems with access,” explained ACLU-affiliated attorney Dick Herman. “I think basically the judge was holding that contempt over the county’s head to make sure he could get in to do his job.”

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The judge did not rule against the county concerning most of the allegations about improper conditions at Juvenile Hall. But she did side with the plaintiffs on their two primary complaints: the practice of tying troublesome juveniles to their beds and placing them in rubber rooms.

During the trial, officials at Juvenile Hall switched from using cloth strips to restrain youths to more comfortable fleece-lined leather cuffs. At the end of the six-week trial, McLaughlin ordered the county to get approval from a psychiatrist before tying youths to their beds or sending them to rubber rooms.

The judge also issued a final ruling on attorneys’ fees, which Herman claims amounted to about $3,000 more than the original $857,000.


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