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HRDC Sues Centurion for Records Related to Vermont Prisoner Care

by David M. Reutter

Fresh off a court victory that held “state contracts with a public entity” require private firms hired by the Vermont Department of Corrections (DOC) to release records relating to legal actions and settlements, PLN’s publisher, the Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), sued Centurion of Vermont and Centurion Managed Care for all records from legal actions filed by state prisoners under their care.

In an earlier case on September 3, 2021, the state Supreme Court reversed a trial court’s order and held that when “the state contracts with a private entity to discharge the entirety of a fundamental and uniquely governmental obligation owed its citizens, that entity acts as an ‘instrumentality’ of the State.” Therefore the Court ruled that under the state Public Records Act (PRA), even a private firm must release any records relating to legal actions and settlements arising from the care provided to Vermont prisoners. [See: PLN, Nov. 2021, p. 42.]

HRDC then filed a PRA request with Centurion on September 20, 2021, seeking documents regarding “claims or lawsuits brought against Centurion involving their [sic] work in Vermont and/or any of Centurion’s employees or agents,” and for which the firm or its insurers paid $1,000 or more to resolve. HRDC sought records from January 1, 2011, until its September 2021 PRA request.

In a response on September 29, 2021, Centurion asserted the requested records were not subject to PRA because they “were not produced or acquired in the course of public agency business” and that any records would be exempt due to confidentiality. HRDC again requested the records on October 8, 2021, and after receiving no response sent a follow up letter on November 9, 2021.

Having still no reply from Centurion, HRDC filed suit in the Washington Civil Division of state Superior Court on December 15, 2021, requesting declaratory and injunctive relief for its PRA request, as well as an award of attorney fees and costs. PLN will report developments in this litigation as they occur. HRDC is represented by Burlington attorney Robert Appel and in-house counsel Daniel Marshall. See: Human Rights Def. Ctr. v. Centurion of Vermont, Vt. Super. (Washington Unit), Case No. 21-cv-03976. 

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Related legal case

Human Rights Def. Ctr. v. Centurion of Vermont,