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February 5, 2023

Illegal-Search Settlement Talks Delayed Due to Lawyer’s Health Issues

In 2019, Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge John Gallagher told Darin Matthews the warrant he’d issued to law enforcement didn’t give police the right to search his vehicle.

But that’s what had happened on Feb. 19 that year, as the UCSC administrator was headed to work.

And after months of back-and-forth in federal court, the lawyers for former Sheriff’s Office deputy Steven Carney and four Scotts Valley Police Department officers who were involved in the incident—Wayne Belville, Michael Birley, Michael Neronde and Paul Lopez—were set to discuss a possible settlement with the former Scotts Valley resident this past May.

For Matthews, it looked like things were headed for a resolution in his favor.

But unfortunately, just as that date was approaching, his attorney, Kate Wells, began experiencing “serious and ongoing health issues.”

Around May 16, Wells was taken to hospital “in grave condition,” court papers note.

Wells’ paralegal, Ray Glock-Grueneich, wrote to the defense team to bring them up to speed on her health emergency.

And when the law enforcement lawyers wrote to the Northern District of California asking for a six-month delay, March 29, Wells was still in a post-acute care facility, with no discharge date in sight.

On Sept. 6, Wells spoke with the County’s legal team to let them know that, while she was feeling much better, she was still dealing with health issues.

“To date, Plaintiff’s counsel has not submitted a settlement demand and has not provided any further updates regarding her continuing representation of the Plaintiff in this matter,” states a joint status report, dated Oct. 20. “Most recently, Plaintiff’s counsel, Ms. Wells, has advised that she is still under heavy medication.”

At that time she was hopeful her doctor would soon let her return to work—at least on a limited basis. However, in a Nov. 28 update, the defense team said they still hadn’t received word from Wells about how she’s doing.

“There has been no further activity on the matter as counsel for County Defendants and counsel for City Defendants are cognizant of Plaintiff’s counsel’s health issues and wish to provide her necessary time to recover,” the lawyers wrote.

The case has been continued to Feb. 9 at 10am in San Jose, Courtroom 4, 5th floor before Judge Edward J. Davila, with an updated status report due by Jan. 27.

Drew Penner
Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected]

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