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PLN public records suit against CCA back in court

Associated Press, Jan. 1, 2011.
PLN public records suit against CCA back in court - Associated Press 2011

Legal battle continues over prison records

Nov. 30, 2011

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A magazine that advocates for the rights of prisoners will likely find out Thursday if it's entitled to more documents from private prison company Corrections Corporation of America.

Davidson County Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman on Wednesday heard the latest round in the legal battle and said she planned to have a ruling early Thursday.

Alex Friedmann, a former prisoner who is now an editor at Prison Legal News, sent a letter to CCA in April 2007 asking for information on settlements, judgments and complaints against the company.

He sued CCA when the company refused to turn over the information, claiming it wasn't subject to Tennessee's open records law. Bonnyman also heard the case in 2008, siding with Friedmann and ordering the company to turn over most of the records.

CCA appealed, arguing once again that it wasn't subject to the law. The Tennessee Court of Appeals later upheld Bonnyman's ruling that CCA is the equivalent of a government agency by running state prisons, and is subject to the state's open records law.

The prison turned over some documents, such as contracts. But Friedmann is still seeking verdicts against the company and settlement agreements with prisoners.

Attorneys for CCA said Friedmann isn't entitled to those documents because operating the prison and litigation are separate. Defense attorney Jason Callen said litigation is handled by the prison's general counsel, which he said operates independently and is not connected in any way to the state.

"The office of general counsel functions separately from the facility," Callen said.

However, Friedman's attorney Andy Clarke disagreed.

"Litigation is part of operating every facility," he said. "There's no justifiable reason not to produce the documents."

The rulings only apply to Tennessee prisons, not federal prisons or other facilities in other states that the company runs.

In its ruling, the Court of Appeals said that Bonnyman gave Friedmann too much and that he's only entitled to get the same information that would be public record if he were asking the state Department of Correction.



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