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US District Court Orders Release of Records to Prisoner

In the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico, before U.S. Magistrate Lourdes A. Martinez, federal prisoner Anceso Rodrigo Aceves prevailed in his efforts to obtain certain prison records pertaining to himself. Defendants were officials of the private concern, Corrections Corporation of America, and the files were reports and communications relating to educational and medical issues, use of restraint, and other disciplinary related issues in which Aceves was the subject.

Defendants filed a “motion for protective order and to file amendment to Martinez report under seal,” seeking to redact certain reports, to designate others as protected under the Privacy Act of 1974, and others as exempt from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Plaintiff Aceves filed a motion to strike Defendant’s motion and Defendants responded.

The issues before Judge Martinez address individual documents and the proffered arguments to seal, protect, or exempt form disclosure. Defendants contended that material redacted from their amendment to the Martinez report should be filed under seal and not disclosed to Plaintiff because it is exempt under FOIA. Defendants argued without citing authority that the un-redacted amendment was prohibited by the Privacy Act of 1974.

Judge Martinez noted that FOIA is not determinative of whether materials are discoverable in a civil case, and that Plaintiff was eligible to obtain discovery regarding any non-privileged matter that is relevant to claims or defenses in the case. Since Defendants made no legal claim of privilege with respect to the redacted materials, these materials were likewise considered discoverable. Defendants failed to show why they even qualified for FOIA consideration, since they were a private company.

Defendants alleged FOIA exemption in some cases because disclosure would elucidate law enforcement procedures, or in other cases that disclosure would expose confidential informants and place lives in jeopardy, but made no showing to back the allegations. Consequently, Judge Martinez ordered all the documents at issue made available to Aceves, to the extent that all material that was kept from Aceves is highlighted.

The judge ordered Defendants’ compliance to a degree as to compel them to send the material at issue to Aceves by “reliable overnight delivery service,” and gave Plaintiff a time frame to file a response to the omitted material. See: Aceves v. Jeffers, United States District Court, New Mexico, Case No: civ 03-0365 JB/LAM.

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Related legal case

Aceves v. Jeffers