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Securus Faces Lawsuit Over Recorded Attorney Calls

On May 27, 2016, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Securus Technologies, Inc. in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, accusing the company of recording privileged phone calls between prisoners and their attorneys as described in this issue’s cover story.

The suit was filed by former San Diego jail detainees Frank Tiscareno and Juan Romero, who allege Securus recorded calls made to their attorneys – a practice that is prohibited by state statute. The California Invasion of Privacy Act includes protections for communications between prisoners and their lawyers, physicians and members of the clergy. Cal. Penal Code § 636(a).

“But in reality, Securus does eavesdrop on, listen in on, record, and store private and confidential attorney-client phone calls without permission of all parties, and Securus shares access and recordings with law enforcement personnel, including prosecutors, as evidenced by, inter alia, reports by lawyers of production of such recorded calls from prosecutors in discovery,” the complaint states.

Recording attorney-client calls, and potentially sharing them with prosecutors and law enforcement officials, “creates a huge potential for mischief and abuse.” The lawsuit also contends that Securus did not provide adequate notice that calls would be recorded, and covered up the improper recordings “by suppressing and concealing the true facts.”

 The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages as well as the destruction of any improperly recorded calls between prisoners and their attorneys; it also seeks class-action status for California prisoners and their lawyers whose calls were recorded by Securus from June 1, 2008 to the present. Although spurred by reporting on the hack of millions of Securus prison phone records in Missouri, the plaintiffs’ attorney phone calls were not included in the hacked data.

“Based on an extrapolation of the Missouri statistics, the potential number of private attorney-client phone calls unlawfully recorded by Securus is staggering,” the complaint states, estimating the number of such calls at more than 500,000 made to public defender offices alone.

Romero and Tiscareno are represented by San Diego attorney Ronald A. Marron; the case remains pending. See: Romero v. Securus Technologies Inc., U.S.D.C. (S.D. Cal.), Case No. 3:16-cv-01283-JM-MDD.

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Related legal case

Romero v. Securus Technologies Inc.