Family Law

D.C. proposes 16-week paid family leave plan  #FamilyLaw

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Councilmembers in the District of Columbia introduced the Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015 on Tuesday, which could make the nation’s capital the first city to offer paid family and medical leave for nearly all its residents.

According to The Washington Post, if legislation passes, almost every part-time and full-time employee in D.C. will be offered 16 weeks of paid family leave. This means employees will receive a paycheck in the event of recovering from illness, spending time with an infant or adopted child, tending to sick family members or recuperating from military deployment.

The funding pool will come from a new tax placed on private D.C. employers based on a salary-dependent sliding scale. These private employers would pay between 0.6 and 1 percent of their employees’ salaries, according to Slate. Workers who earn up to $52,000 a year, will receive 100 percent of pay during their leave. Those who make more than that can earn up to $1,000 a week plus 50 percent of their salary, with a maximum of $3,000 per week.

The legislation, which was introduced by D.C. councilmembers David Grosso and Elissa Silverman, would be eligible for almost all D.C. residents and employees. The federal government will not participate, but D.C. federal employees and contractors could opt into the system with a small participation fee.

The U.S. is one of the few countries in the world without national paid leave. It is also one of three countries with no paid maternity leave laws (the other two being Papua New Guinea and Oman). Currently, only three states (California, New Jersey and Rhode Island) have implemented paid family and medical leave. However, the maximum benefit is six weeks partial paid leave in New Jersey and California, while Rhode Island only offers four weeks of partial pay. If passed, the new D.C. legislation would be almost double that.


Education Law

How Zero-Tolerance Policies Hurt Kids #EducationLaw



Harshly punishing students for ridiculously minor infractions has become the norm in America.
Before there was Ahmed Mohamed, the 14-year-old terrorist (read: nerd) who was arrested for bringing an explosive device (read: clock) to a Texas high school, there was Joshua, the seven-year-old Napoleon of Crime who was suspended from his Maryland elementary school for chewing his Pop-Tart into a gun and pointing it at fellow students.

Before Joshua there was Patrick Agin, a Rhode Island high school senior and member in good standing of the Society for Creative Anachronism, who had to sue his school to allow a yearbook picture of him dressed in chain-mail armor and carrying a broadsword. And long before Patrick Agin rode in bureaucratic battle, there was the curious case of the unnamed eighth grader we’ll call “Midol Mary”. She got booted from her school in Washington state for the unforgiveable crime of giving a non-prescription pain-relief pill to a classmate suffering menstrual cramps.

Listing the undeserving victims of zero-tolerance policies in public K-12 schools yields a genealogy as long, confusing, and endlessly multiplying as any found in the Old Testament or a late-run episode of Honey Boo-Boo. And why this is so and whether the benefits outweigh the costs are questions well worth asking.

According to Department of Education statistics, one out of five students will be suspended in a given year and another 3.4 percent will be expelled. In some states, such as Texas, over half of all students were suspended or expelled at least once during their middle-school and high school years. There is unanimous agreement that students who are thus disciplined are far more likely to not graduate high school.

Why the list of disciplined, suspended, and expelled kids approaches infinity isn’t a mystery. About 75 percent of schools have zero-tolerance policies for everything from bringing guns on campus to sharing cough drops to having a bad attitude toward teachers. Kids have been bounced temporarily or permanently for bringing mouthwash to school, using paper or plastic swords in Halloween costumes, writing violent short stories, and having a pen knife with a two-inch blade in a survival kit locked away in a car parked on school grounds.

The concept of “zero tolerance”—of not allowing any level of a given substance or behavior—originated in criminology and food and drug regulations before migrating to education. In the 1960s, the Food and Drug Administration announced that certain compounds were unsafe in any concentration and wrote rules to force manufacturers to banish them from their products. In the 1970s and ‘80s, academics such as James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling promulgated “broken windows” theories of social order, which emphasized policing even minimal signs of lawlessness such as littering and turnstile-jumping as a way to prevent more serious problems from developing.

Throughout the modern “War on Drugs,” which was declared by Richard Nixon in 1971, politicians, law enforcement, and advocacy groups have pursued ever-more exacting standards of prohibition and control of both illegal and legal drugs. For instance, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), which spearheaded the campaign in the 1980s to hold drunk drivers accountable for their behavior, now lobbies to continuously lower the legal blood-alcohol content so that it approaches zero.

Schools began implementing zero-tolerance policies, mostly in relation to drug possession, in the late 1980s, according to Russell J. Skiba in a study for the Indiana Education Policy Center. But it was the Gun-Free Schools Zone Act of 1994 that supercharged the trend by tying federal education funds to passing specific new laws.

“The law mandates a one year calendar expulsion for possession of a firearm, referral of law-violating students to the criminal or juvenile justice system, and the provision that state law must authorize the chief administrative officer of each local school district to modify such expulsions on a case-by-case basis,” wrote Skiba in 2000.

Almost immediately, federal and state legislators expanded the scope of both law and practice to include an ever-growing list of objects and behaviors under zero-tolerance diktat. The Columbine High School shooting in 1999 cemented such trends in place, despite later revelations showing that virtually every known aspect of the killers’ motivations, from their supposed love of violent video games to their being bullied, was completely incorrect.

Traditional schools have never been known for their celebration or nurturing of the human spirit. Indeed, decades–even centuries!—of novels, plays, movies, songs, and other forms of creative expression attest to the stultifying effect of conventional pedagogy based on a factory model borne of the Industrial Revolution. In this sense, zero-tolerance policies are nothing new. They are simply the latest way in which schools always prize order over education.

And this much seems certain: “The research findings and other data on zero tolerance suggest that these policies—which have been in force for 25 years—have no real benefit and significant adverse effects.” That’s from a 2013 study published by the Vera Institute of Justice, which also notes that “only five percent of serious disciplinary actions nationally in recent years involve possession of a weapon.”

Schools are not safer, or more educational, because of zero-tolerance policies. They are just more arbitrary, and tougher for boys and minorities to navigate. An exhaustive study of Texas middle- and high-schools found that white boys were about twice as likely to get in trouble than white girls—and that black and Hispanic boys were about 50 percent more likely to get in trouble than their white counterparts.

Here is the sad truth: The ridiculous cases filling the newspapers of kids chewing breakfast into gun-shaped pastries or giving an aspirin to a friend aren’t the exception, but the rule. In practice, zero-tolerance policies are aimed at all sorts of petty, often-arbitrary annoyances that get under the skin of individual school administrators.

We spend over $12,000 a year per pupil in the nation’s public K-12 system, an amount that equals tuition at most flagship state universities. Since the early 1970s, inflation-adjusted per-pupil spending has more than doubled yet the scores of graduating seniors haven’t budged upwards. We tell ourselves that we send our kids to school to learn how to think in a critical, sophisticated, nuanced way and they encounter instead a system that is arbitrary, harsh, and ineffective at teaching.


Family Law and Silva Law Group

Recently, Nebraska Sen. Sue Crawford said she was looking into the idea of having a state-funded program for family leave. This program would require workers to pay into it, allowing the funds to be used to, at least partially, pay workers who need to take leave. Many question how her suggested program would work and why the state would need to be involved on such a matter. Although her program focuses on all types of leave, maternity and paternity leave are extremely important and beneficial. The state and federal government should be more involved because families are important to the well-being of society. Nebraska does not currently have a state law to provide paid postpartum leave, but it should create one in order to benefit the workers within the state.


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TURNER: Family, medical leave would benefit many #FamilyLaw

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Criminal Defense and Silva Law Group

AG Kilmartin defends handling of 38 Studios criminal case  #CriminalDefense

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Attorney General Peter Kilmartin is defending his handling of a criminal investigation over 38 Studios and reiterating that he won’t recuse himself from it even though he was serving in the General Assembly when the deal was cooked up.

Kilmartin, a Democrat who won a second term last fall, was a veteran Pawtucket state representative and a candidate for attorney general when he voted in 2010 for the legislation that allowed the 38 Studios deal to move forward. Kilmartin had recently stepped down from the No. 3 job in House Democratic leadership when Gordon Fox succeeded William Murphy as speaker.

On Tuesday, in his first public comments since last week’s release of a huge trove of documents from the civil lawsuit over 38 Studios, Kilmartin said the revelations about top House Democrats’ efforts to help the company have not made him reconsider whether to recuse himself from the criminal probe.


Real Estate Law and Silva Law Group

An ongoing federal and state law enforcement investigation into alleged mortgage fraud in RI has resulted to date in a former mortgage originator pleading guilty in federal court to conspiracy to commit bank fraud, and an unlicensed real estate appraiser being charged with allegedly stealing the identity of other appraisers when performing and submitting real estate appraisals to banks as documentation for mortgage loan applications.

Franchesco Franco, 34, of Providence, a former mortgage loan originator, pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy to commit bank fraud for his participation with a local real estate attorney and others in a scheme to defraud Flagstar Bank, by filing a fraudulent mortgage loan application and supporting documentation in the name of a person known to him who had recently died, in order to secure a loan in the amount of $157,102 for the purchase of a residence at 63 Wendell Street in Providence.

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Mortgage Loan Originator Pleads Guilty  #RealEstateLaw

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Family Law and Silva Law Group

Prison inmates asked to pay copays, other costs tied to medical care, study finds  #FamilyLaw



Correctional facilities are responsible for providing health services to people who are jailed, but that doesn’t mean that prisoners don’t face financial charges for care. In most states they may be on the hook for copayments ranging from a few dollars to as much as $100 for medical care, according to a recent study.

At least 35 states authorize copayments and other fees for medical services at state prisons or county jails, the analysis by the Brennan Center for Criminal Justice at New York University School of Law found. The Federal Bureau Of Prisons also permits inmates to be charged copayments for medical services. Some states and local governments require copayments for emergency treatment and hospitalizations in addition to routine care, says Lauren-Brooke Eisen, senior counsel at the Brennan Center’s justice program who authored the study.

“It’s understandable why jurisdictions need to increase their revenue,” says Eisen. “From a public policy standpoint, however, the fees can serve as a deterrent to getting care.”

The practice is part of a larger trend of charging inmates for prison services, says Eisen. In addition to medical copayments, more than half of states allow prisoners to be charged room and board while incarcerated. They generally also charge for incidentals like phone calls and Internet use.

In addition to raising money, prison officials hope that by imposing fees they’ll reduce demand for services, says Dr. Robert Greifinger, a former chief medical officer of the New York Department of Corrections who works as a correctional consultant.

But fees, even small ones, may not only deter prisoners from making requests for care that prison officials consider “frivolous,” they may also deter necessary care to keep chronic conditions in check or treat communicable diseases that could easily spread through crowded prisons.

An estimated 80 percent of prisoners are poor. Medical copayments typically come out of their commissary accounts, which are often funded by money provided by their families and earnings from prison jobs.

“Prisoners don’t have money, they’re getting $20 a month from their family,” says Greifinger. “If they deplete that for medical care, they don’t have money for underwear, soap or food.”

In a landmark 1976 case, Estelle v. Gamble, the Supreme Court held that not providing adequate medical care to prisoners was a violation of the Constitution’s Eighth Amendment against cruel and unusual punishment. But courts have generally allowed prisons to attempt to recoup some of the costs of treating inmates by charging them for their care.

At the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center in Albuquerque, N.M., inmates can see a nurse on a walk-in basis rather than having to put in a written request first. The process, implemented two years ago, is intended to give inmates better access to health care services, says Phillip Greer, chief of corrections at the center. Still, sometimes inmates misuse the system and copayments are one way to discourage that, Greer says. Prisoners generally pay $3 to see a nurse and $5 for a doctor visit. If they can’t afford to pay, they’re not charged, he said.

State spending on prison health care grew to $7.7 billion by 2011, with increases of more than 13 percent in half of states, according to an analysis by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. In addition, half of the states saw their per inmate health care spending increase more than 10 percent during that time period. Prisoners are more likely to have chronic and infectious diseases than the general population, and overall the prison population is aging, leading to increased medical costs.

But inmates, many of whom are uninsured when they enter prison, often don’t get the care they need. Among inmates with chronic medical problems, many didn’t receive a medical exam while incarcerated, including 68 percent of local jail inmates, 20 percent of state prison inmates and 14 percent of federal prison inmates, a 2009 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found.

Even if they could afford insurance, prisoners can’t buy a marketplace plan. The health law specifically excludes people in jail from the requirement to have insurance.

Dr. Josiah Rich conducts a weekly clinic at the Rhode Island Department of Corrections in Cranston. Prisoners pay a few dollars if they make an appointment to see him, but if he initiates the appointment rather than the prisoner, they’re not charged, Rich says. Recently the prison announced that if a doctor orders Tylenol, a topical cream or other over-the-counter treatment, those items will have to be purchased by the prisoner with commissary funds rather than provided through the prison’s medical service at no charge, Rich says.

Rich, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at Brown University who is also co-director of the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights, a group serving prison populations across the country, says, “Charging prisoners for health care is yet another way of kicking them when they’re down.”

Please contact Kaiser Health News to send comments or ideas for future topics for the Insuring Your Health column.


Business Law and Silva Law Group

Scott MacKay Commentary: 38 Studios Documents Cast Another Pall Over RI Government  #BusinessLaw



The 38 Studios lawsuit disclosures have once again cast a cloud over the Rhode Island Statehouse. RIPR political analyst Scott MacKay wonders when Rhode Islanders will finally be fed up enough to bring change to Smith Hill.

Even if you have lived through the Ocean State credit union crisis in the 1990s, the Ed Diprete governorship and both of Buddy Cianci’s reigns as mayor, the 38 Studios legal documents dropped on the public last week can lead to only one conclusion: You thought you’ve seen it all. You haven’t.

Wonder why Rhode Islanders are so cynical about their government and business elites? Well how about a House Speaker, Gordon Fox, and a Senate President, Teresa Paiva Weed, who either withheld information from rank-and-file lawmakers or looked the other way as they slipped the $75 million Curt Schilling deal through the Statehouse in the waning hours of the 2010 General Assembly session?

Then there is a governor, Donald Carcieri, who appears to be little more than a mindless cheerleader for the dream that was former Boston Red Sox pitcher Schilling’s video game company.

The state’s Economic Development Corporation, made up largely of top business leaders, rubber-stamped the 38 Studios fiasco and approved putting $75 million of taxpayer money on the line in an endeavor so risky that even the venture capital class wouldn’t bite.

The most stomach-turning revelation in the thousands of pages of court records is the role played by Fox, who is now serving a three-year sentence in federal prison for a bribery and corruption conviction not related to 38 Studios. It turns out that then-majority leader Fox was involved in shaping the deal nearly a year before the plan became public.

Fox’s and his ally, the lawyer and tax-credit entrepreneur Michael Corso, were working behind the scenes to push the state subsidy to 38 Studios. Corso ended up with $2 million for his role and a small stake in the company.

Because Fox and Corso both took the Fifth Amendment to avoid incriminating themselves during the legal proceedings, it is not possible to know precisely what happened. But what we now know about Fox should frost all Rhode Islanders and hopefully give the state police some avenues for their ongoing probe.

Fox was desperate for money to maintain the lavish lifestyle that he and his husband enjoyed. Fancy cars, dinners at fine Providence restaurants, flashy jewelry and an expensive East Side home were all part of the life that he couldn’t support from the modest salary he earned from being speaker and his marginal law practice. We know this from details released by the U.S. Attorney’s office after Fox’s guilty plea.

As far as the EDC goes, it is sad that some of the state’s top business leaders, including the corporation’s vice-chairman, Alfred Verrecchia, the well-regarded CEO of the giant toy maker Hasbro, seemed asleep at the switch. He and others on the board accepted the flimsy arguments for this disaster put forward by consultants, lawyers  and so-called financial experts who stood to cash in on the transaction.

It seems like no one in this mix was smart enough to ask  Massachusetts economic development officials or then-Gov. Deval Patrick why the Bay State wasn’t pulling out the stops to keep the World Series hero’s company in its Maynard location. Just what do all of those well-paid Smith Hill legal counsels and policy mavens do all day?

In retrospect, the arrogance of Carcieri and the EDC is a bitter pill for taxpayers in a state with big financial challenges. Carcieri wouldn’t let a former U.S. senator and candidate for governor, Lincoln Chafee, speak publicly to the EDC to outline his objections. You may not like Chafee, but in this case he was 100 percent right.

Keith Stokes, the EDC director at the time, didn’t have the business or video game experience to run this effort. But when Chafee tried to replace him, Paiva Weed stepped in to save the job of Stokes, her Newport neighbor and longtime friend.

There was also a lack of skepticism from many elements of the Rhode Island media, albeit not here at Rhode Island Public Radio.

We all have to take a deep breath and understand that this lawsuit is not a fact-finding commission, such as the state embarked on after the credit union mess. And the lawsuit documents should not be used as a vessel for a witch-hunt or drawing conclusions about every aspect of a complicated case.

What is at stake is money. This is about the state’s effort to claw back some of the many millions frittered away on this fiasco. So far, the state’s lawyer Max Wistow, has gotten back about $17 million in settlements with law firms and individuals that helped foist this mess on the rest of us. Pending are claims on other deep-pocketed defendants, especially Wells Fargo.

As is always the case, Rhode Island’s top politicians say it is time to move on. Gov. Gina Raimondo says we must learn from mistakes and not be “afraid to take action on economic development.” House Speaker Nick Mattiello says the House will review the court documents and conduct oversight hearings.

That’s fine, but it’s time to move beyond the press releases.

We’ll believe the governor and speaker when theyu sher in real change. They could start with no more slippery end runs of the state constitutional provision that gives only the voters the power to borrow large sums of money. This would mean no more moral obligation bonds for pet projects. Voters usually approve bonds for worthwhile things,  such as road repairs or the $125 million bond approved in the last election for the new engineering school at the University of Rhode Island. Voters should be the check on such initiatives as 38 Studios and other projects the politicians claim are `game-.changers.’

Then Raimondo and Mattiello could decide they are going to run the government openly. When the governor decides to give one of the speaker’s allies, as she did with with former state representative Don Lally, a cushy state job, she should first get clearance from the state Ethics Commission. And when the governor hires a former Democratic political operative, such as David Barricelli, to a job at the Department of Labor and Training, make it public. Why hide the hiring a qualified candidate?

The governor puts out a press release every time she reads to a third grade class, so why not publicly announce the hiring of Barricelli?

Yes, Rhode Island must put this fiasco in our collective rear-view mirror. But that begins with the politicians, not the voters.


Commercial Law and Silva Law Group

Guest Opinion: Mashpee Wampanoag tribal casino still a risky bet for Mass.  #CommercialLaw



Now that the federal government has authorized the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe to take more than 300 acres of land in Taunton and Mashpee into trust, the big question is whether the decision will be challenged in court.
Tribal officials say a successful challenge is very unlikely, but all involved are treading very carefully. In its 140-page decision regarding the Mashpee Wampanoag, the Bureau of Indian Affairs devoted 40 pages to whether the agency had the legal authority to take land into trust for the tribe. The bureau concluded it did have the legal authority, but there were a lot of suppositions and interpretations in those 40 pages.
Taking land into trust for tribes has been something of a legal no-man’s land since 2009, when the US Supreme Court rejected a bid by the federal government to take 31 acres of land into trust for the Narragansett Indian Tribe of Rhode Island. The decision threw the federal government’s entire land-in-trust process into chaos.
The Rhode Island case, Carcieri v. Salazar, centered on the definition of Indian. The Indian Reorganization Act permits the federal government to take land into trust for Indians, who were defined in the statute as “all persons of Indian descent who are members of any recognized Indian tribe now under federal jurisdiction, and all persons who are descendants of such members who were, on June 1, 1934, residing within the present boundaries of any Indian reservation.”
The state of Rhode Island argued the key word in the definition was “now” and suggested the only tribes for whom land could be taken into trust were those that currently have federal recognition and were “under federal jurisdiction” in 1934, when the law passed. The Supreme Court agreed with that interpretation, ruling that the federal government improperly took land into trust for the Narragansett because the tribe was under state jurisdiction in 1934.
In the press release accompanying its decision last Friday on the Mashpee Wampanoag, the Bureau of Indian Affairs said it was authorized to take the land into trust under the Indian Reorganization Act “and in keeping with the US Supreme Court’s decision in Carcieri v. Salazar.” More accurately, the bureau dealt with Carcieri largely by ignoring it.
The bureau said there were two definitions of Indian contained in the phrase from the Indian Reorganization Act, the first dealing with a tribe “now under federal jurisdiction” and the second dealing with descendants of tribal members who in 1934 were residing “within the present boundaries of any Indian reservation.”
In a footnote to its decision, the bureau said the comments it received from state and local officials on the Mashpee Wampanoag case focused on the first definition, which was the focus of Carcieri. The bureau, while acknowledging the Mashpee Wampanoag could be viewed as being under state supervision in 1934, said the comments it received from state and local officials were irrelevant because the agency was basing its decision on the second definition.

The bureau’s decision acknowledged the meaning of the second definition was imprecise, but concluded that the Mashpee Wampanoag did occupy a reservation of sorts in the town of Mashpee that was created by Britain in 1660 and continued in various iterations up through the 1930s and on into the 1960s. The bureau’s decision also held that the Mashpee Wampanoag of today are the descendants of those tribal members from the 1930s.
“The town of Mashpee was specifically established as a protected tract of land for Mashpee Indians,” the bureau’s decision said. “The tribe has a long recorded history at its town and the tribe’s ownership and control over this land, while varying in form and degree over hundreds of years, existed in 1934. Given the extensive historical evidence concerning the town of Mashpee, the sweeping remedial purpose of the Indian Reorganization Act, and the clear directive to interpret statutory ambiguities in favor of the Indians, we find that the tribe had a historic reservation for purposes of the second definition as the term was understood when the IRA was enacted.”


Real Estate Law and Silva Law Group

North Carolina offshore wind advances  #RealEstateLaw

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Federal efforts to lease ocean sites off the North Carolina coast for offshore wind development advanced last week, when the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management issued a report finding that there would be no significant environmental or socioeconomic impacts from issuing wind energy leases in three specific areas. The determination brings BOEM one step closer to auctioning off leasing rights off North Carolina for offshore wind development.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior. BOEM performs key duties under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, including resource evaluation, planning, and site leasing. In furtherance of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, BOEM has auctioned off the rights to lease sites in federal waters for offshore wind development off states including Massachusetts, Maryland, Virginia, and Rhode Island. Altogether, BOEM has awarded nine commercial wind leases. Seven of these were awarded through its competitive lease sale process, generating over $14.5 million in high bids for over 700,000 acres in federal waters.

Federal law prescribes the process BOEM must undertake to lease sites for offshore wind development. Under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), BOEM must evaluate the environmental and socioeconomic impacts of proposed actions.

For the proposed leasing off North Carolina, in January 2015 BOEM published its Environmental Assessment (EA) of the impacts of granting commercial wind leases and allowing of site characterization and assessment activities on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf. On September 17, BOEM issued a revised Environmental Assessment. That EA found there would be no significant environmental or socioeconomic impacts from issuing wind energy leases and allowing site characterization activities. This “Finding of No Significant Impact”, or FONSI, enables BOEM to proceed to the next step in the leasing process.

That next step will occur in October, when BOEM will convene a public meeting of the North Carolina Renewable Energy Task Force. After considering the input from the Task Force, BOEM will publish a “Proposed Sale Notice” in the Federal Register, which will include a 60-day public comment period. That notice would be followed by a lease auction, likely similar to those held for sites off other states.

In addition to its proposed North Carolina activity, BOEM expects to hold a competitive lease sale for sites offshore New Jersey later this year.


Business Law and Silva LAw Group

Once-secret documents could shed light on 38 Studios deal #BusinessLaw



Court officials are poised this week to release tens of thousands of pages of previously secret documents in the lawsuit brought over Rhode Island’s $75 million deal with 38 Studios, the video game company started by former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling.

The lawsuit against Schilling, executives at 38 Studios, banks and others that aided the deal, seeks to recover the money taxpayers lost. The documents include 66 depositions, many of them lengthy. Former governor Don Carcieri, for example, was deposed for three days.

More than three years after the company ran out of money and collapsed, the documents could provide answers about what went on behind the scenes in the 2010 deal to lure the company to Rhode Island from Massachusetts.

Who knew what, when?

The state’s Economic Development Corp. struck the deal with 38 Studios in 2010, not long after the General Assembly approved a $125 million loan guarantee program pushed through under then-Gov. Carcieri, a Republican, and former House speaker Gordon Fox, a Democrat, who has since gone to prison on unrelated corruption charges. It was designed to provide capital for high-tech or “knowledge-economy” businesses. Several members of the General Assembly have said they never thought 60 percent of the money in the program they approved would go to one company.

Documents uncovered since have indicated state officials may have been in talks with Schilling’s company long before legislation was introduced, as far back as 2009.

Some lawmakers and good-government groups say they hope the documents, and depositions of Schilling and others, will provide a more specific timeline of when the deal started to percolate. They also want to know whether key players, including the governor and legislative leaders, knew before the loan guarantee program was approved that $75 million of it would be channeled to one company: 38 Studios.

“I’d be curious to know if there was a concerted effort among the leadership at the time to keep this from the rank and file,” said Democratic Rep. Michael Marcello. “If the records reveal that there was, I think that raises some very serious questions about the institutional workings in the General Assembly and the concentration of power in leadership.”

Sen. James Sheehan, a Democrat who chairs the Senate Committee on Government Oversight and asked the court to release the documents, said he also wants to know more about the roles of the institutional players, including Wells Fargo, the placement agent on the deal, and First Southwest, which was the financial adviser for the Economic Development Corp.

Lessons learned

John Marion, of the public interest group Common Cause, said the information contained in the documents – such as possible conflicts of interest or players who exerted influence behind the scenes – could provide important information to ensure better practices moving forward.

“Where did our public officials fail us, and what sorts of changes might be necessary to prevent those types of failures going forward?” Marion said.

Sheehan echoed that.

“I’m really concerned about preventing this from ever happening again,” Sheehan said.

Seeking vindication

Schilling tweeted about the release last week, saying he was “anxious to see” how the public reacts “to actual things that happened.” He has repeatedly blamed former governor Lincoln Chafee for how he handled the company’s troubles. Chafee opposed the deal when he successfully ran for governor in 2010, then was in office when it collapsed. Schilling tweeted that he hopes the release “will hopefully expose” the Chafee administration.

Max Wistow, the lawyer brought on by Chafee to sue on behalf of the economic development agency, said the release will show the lawsuit against Schilling and others is justified.

“Our central claims are going to be substantiated,” Wistow said.

Chafee is now running for the Democratic nomination for president.

But . . .

While dozens of lengthy depositions are set to be released, Marcello, an attorney, says he expects the lawyers in the case were likely focused on proving or disproving the allegations in the lawsuit, counts that include fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and racketeering and conspiracy, among others. That could mean they don’t address big questions about how decisions were made in the highest ranks of state government.

“It could be somewhat of a disappointment,” Marcello said.