The Investigators

Sep 19, 2013 1:15 AM by Tom McNamara

State prison inmate files hundreds of lawsuits from behind bars

The Federal court in Tucson has been absolutely flooded with lawsuits. Those suits are not from clashing corporations or government gadflies. Instead, these almost 400 lawsuits come from just one man who is sitting in a prison cell.

This inmate's pile of lawsuits could give taxpayers indigestion. Which is exactly what he's claiming in some suits: stomach troubles from prison food. He wants trillions of dollars in damages, but in the meantime, these questionable cases gum-up the courts, and cost taxpayers in legal fees.

Dale Maisano is currently serving a 15-year sentence for aggravated assault out of Pinal county.

Right now, he's locked up at the Arizona State Prison on Wilmot Road in Tucson. But he sure stays busy in there. In the past month alone, Maisano has filed dozens of lawsuits. Over the past several years, that number has reached into the hundreds.

Maisano has sued Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, State Attorney General Tom Horne, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, and many others.

In one recent case, Maisano demands one-trillion dollars from the State of Arizona and others for stomach problems, that he claims were caused by eating prison food.

Most of the lawsuits are quickly closed by the court just days after they're filed. A judge saying Maisano has "...egregiously abused the legal process."

In fact, in 1992, a judge issued a restraining order, which prevented Maisano from filing any civil action in any Federal court without first getting the court's permission.

Andrew Silverman, Professor Emeritus at the U of A College of Law, has worked on several cases involving inmates. He tells the News 4 Tucson Investigators, the ability to file lawsuits is an important right for prisoners.

"Even if we classify this one individual as abusing the system, it doesn't mean that we should cut-off the system to other inmates who don't abuse it, who only bring a cause of action when it may be warranted. You know, it may not succeed, but they are in a situation where they feel it's their only recourse," Silverman says.

Silverman adds, compared to prisoners, most people on the outside are in a better position to resolve matters, without resorting to filing a lawsuit.

"I mean, they're completely controlled by the prison system, in this state, by the Department of Corrections. Even when they complain, it doesn't mean that even a legitimate claim is addressed," Silverman says.

The News 4 Tucson Investigators also asked Department of Corrections officials if they would allow us to talk to Maisano, but our repeated requests went unanswered.

We also wanted to know how much it costs the state to defend taxpayers against lawsuits filed by prisoners, including Dale Maisano. But, a spokesperson for Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne says they don't keep formal stats.

If you have something you'd like us to look into, email the News 4 Tucson Investigators at investigators@kvoa.com

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