Sheriff Vic Regalado said in an affidavit he didn’t know until Thursday that a federal judge overseeing a civil rights lawsuit in which he is a defendant had a possible conflict of interest.

He should have asked his lawyer, Clark Brewster, who knew about the perceived conflict since 2008 but apparently said nothing to the former or current sheriff. Or he could have asked Brewster’s son, Corbin, who now works for his father’s firm and worked for the judge’s firm that handled the 2008 case at issue.

Brewster and Regalado did not respond to requests for comment from The Frontier about the disqualification request.

Clark Brewster. DYLAN GOFORTH/The Frontier

The request to disqualify U.S. District Judge John Dowdell in the Elliott Williams civil rights case occurred just hours before a pre-trial hearing began Thursday.

The motion by Brewster argued that Dowdell should be disqualified because the judge was a partner in a Tulsa law firm — Norman, Wohlgemuth, Chandler and Dowdell — that litigated a case against Tulsa County almost a decade ago.

The case involved a 2008 dispute between the city and county over an agreement to operate the jail.

“Judge John Dowdell was a partner at Norman Wohlgemuth Chandler and Dowdell at the time the Tulsa County case was filed and litigated, and his name appears on pleadings,” the motion states.

“As a partner of the firm, which has less than twelve attorneys, Judge John Dowdell not only participated in strategic discussions about the Tulsa County case with other partners and attorneys at the firm, but he benefitted financially from fees paid to his firm.”

Williams’ case is set to go to trial in late February. He died from a broken neck and dehydration over five days in a medical cell. Video shows jailers tossed trays of food at his feet and medical staff didn’t treat him or take him to the hospital.

Records indicate the jail’s medical and detention staff thought Williams was “faking paralysis.”

The federal civil rights lawsuit by Williams’ estate names Sheriff Vic Regalado in his official capacity, former Sheriff Stanley Glanz and the jail’s former medical provider, Correctional Healthcare Companies Inc.

The motion filed Thursday says Regalado was only recently made aware of Dowdell’s involvement in the law firm.

Dowdell failed to disclose his association with the Tulsa County case during litigation, the motion states. Dowdell’s involvement in the 2008 case “raises serious questions as to Judge Dowdell’s impartiality.”

“Attorneys intend to file a motion to disqualify Judge John Dowdell,” the motion continues.

The firm Dowdell was involved in filed a case in 2008 against Tulsa County alleging jail conditions under Glanz violated prisoners’ and detainees’ civil rights. Glanz demanded “unreasonable” fees for medical expenses from people booked into the jail by the city, creating money-making opportunities for himself and the county, the suit states.

The lawsuit also alleged Glanz “interfered with the negotiating process” and that his actions were “unauthorized, malicious and wrongful.” The suit sought punitive damages from Tulsa County.

Though Regalado’s affidavit claims he only recently discovered that Dowdell’s firm represented the city of Tulsa, records show his private attorney, Brewster, represented the county in that case. Brewster represented Glanz in the lawsuit, which was filed in Tulsa District Court and, ended in a settlement in 2009.

An affidavit by Glanz states that Dowdell should disqualify himself from the state because his rulings have shown bias against the county. Dowdell issued a strongly worded ruling in July allowing Williams’ case to go forward, calling the cell where he died a “burial crypt.”

Attorney Dan Smolen, who represents Williams’ estate in the suit, issued a statement Thursday criticizing Brewster’s attempt to disqualify the judge.

“The Motion to Disqualify filed by Mr. Glanz and Mr. Regalado is truly frivolous, void of evidentiary support and blatantly untimely. It is nothing more than a last ditch, and bad faith, attempt to, yet again, delay justice for the Estate of Elliott Williams,” the statement said.

“The Motion is purely tactical and obstructionist. Most troubling, it is based on a falsehood.”

The statement noted that Brewster’s motion states that the “facts underlying this motion have recently come to light.”

“That is simply untrue. Though he fails to disclose it in the motion, Mr. Brewster has, for years, known the underlying ‘facts.’ Particularly, the Motion to Disqualify is based on a case, filed in 2008, in which both Clark Brewster and Guy Fortney, counsel for Mr. Glanz and Mr. Regalado in Williams’ action, represented Tulsa County. If Mr. Brewster truly believed that the Judge was partial or biased, why did he wait nearly 6 years to raise the issue?”