San Diego Union-Tribune — Michael Witkin will be an inmate at Solano state prison at least until 2026, yet he has filed a lawsuit against a Sacramento-area car-repair-shop owner asking for $15,000 in damages for the lost use of his transmission.
It will be a long time before Witkin can drive any vehicle again, but this minor civil case illustrates a major issue: the way inmates can tie up the court system with cases that would strike most anyone as frivolous. Their court fees are typically paid for by California taxpayers.
“It’s been very frustrating and costly,” said Bruce Toelle Jr., owner of PTS Extreme Transmissions (a neighbor of mine), who has been dealing with the lawsuit since January 2012. He said Witkin dropped off his transmission for repair at least three years ago, then never came to pick it up. Toelle viewed the transmission as abandoned property.
Witkin’s lawsuit alleges that “Defendant Toelle took possession of petitioner’s transmission … and refusing on numerous occasions to return the unit.” Toelle said it’s a simple statute-of-limitations issue and can’t understand why this case has dragged through the courts for 18 months, running up his legal expenses.
A judge even granted Witkin extra time and the right to testify via telephone. As of July 22, Sacramento County Superior Court noted that “The court has heard nothing from Mr. Witkin.” The court asked both parties to file their final briefs by mid-August, so the central issue should soon be resolved. But who can restore the wasted time? continue reading...