Private Prison Company CCA Detention Facility Secretly Recording Lawyer – Client Meetings
How Safe are Criminal Lawyer Conversations with Clients? The Rising Danger to Attorney-Client Privileged Communications
There is no justice to be had if there isn’t confidence in our ability to have safe and secure conversations with our lawyers, is there? This is particularly true when it’s a criminal defense attorney communicating with their client, who is either facing a prosecutor wanting to take their freedom (or their life), or who is already in prison and fighting for their release.
It’s step one in any criminal lawyer’s day: protecting the privacy of things that are shared between lawyer and client. This cannot be underestimated — how important criminal lawyers take this duty.
Of course, this used to be easier to do, before technology brought us things like smart phones, wireless cameras, and such. Now, things are more complicated.
Lawyers work hard to make sure communications are safe. Here in our offices, for instance, we can reassure clients that discussions won’t be overheard by the measures that we can take to protect against eavesdroppers. See our earlier post for more on that issue, “Client Communications With Criminal Defense Lawyers – Keeping Your Lawyer And Client Communications Safe From Eavesdroppers And Hackers.”
The Problem Isn’t the Attorney: Criminal Lawyers Cannot Reveal Confidential Communications
There is a lot of law on the books that protects the privacy of lawyer – client communications, insofar as mandating that criminal lawyers cannot reveal things that are said to them by their clients. Clients need to know they can trust their lawyers, and both state and federal laws exist to bolster that trust. For instance, there is Rule 503 of the Texas Rules of Evidence, which provides in part:
A communication is “confidential” if not intended to be disclosed to third persons other than those to whom disclosure is made in furtherance of the rendition of professional legal services to the client or those reasonably necessary for the transmission of the communication…
In criminal cases, a client has a privilege to prevent the lawyer or lawyer’s representative from disclosing any other fact which came to the knowledge of the lawyer or the lawyer’s representative by reason of the attorney-client relationship.
If a prosecutor asks what our client told us, we point to things like Rule 503 and refuse to answer. You know this, you’ve seen this work on TV shows like Law and Order.
Bottom line, many criminal lawyers take pride in their ability to keep secrets insofar as client representations. For those that might question the criminal lawyer’s ability to keep their mouths shut — consider this:
- first, it would pretty much doom a law practice for a criminal lawyer to be a blabbermouth or gossip, so it’s just good business not to do so; and
- second, any lawyer tempted to do so risks discipline by the State Bar of Texas, including loss of his law license, if he fails to respect the attorney-client privilege. See, e.g., Texas Rule 1.05 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct.
So, when we consider the growing danger to the sanctity of the communications between a criminal lawyer and his client, it’s not really the lawyer (or the client) that is the threat. It’s third parties — those with an interest in listening to those chats and talks and discussions. People like police officers, jail guards, sheriff’s deputies, and more.
And today, confidence in the privacy of communications between a lawyer and their client is being threatened today more than ever.
CCA Prison Has Been Recording Lawyer – Client Meetings (Video and Audio)
How was this discovered? Some video recordings were turned over to a federal grand jury up there after the recordings were subpoenaed as part of a grand jury proceeding. Seems the prosecutors were trying to use the recording to oust a criminal defense lawyer from a case, arguing she had a conflict of interest. Wow.
National news was made when the federal district judge up there responded fiercely — and probably pretty surprisingly to the prosecution. Instead of ruling on the conflict of interest issue, the Honorable Julie Robinson of the United States District Court for the District of Kansas ordered the prosecutors to turn the video over to her, the judge.
Judge Robinson also ordered CCA to stop making video and audio recordings of lawyer meetings with prisoners as far as her power would reach. You can read her order here, which includes the following:
IT IS ORDERED BY THE COURT that all detention facilities in Kansas and Missouri, as well as CCA, that house detainees charged in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas immediately CEASE AND DESIST: (1) audio-visual recording of attorney-client communications in the detention facility; (2) audio recording of attorney-client phone calls; and (3) audio-visual recording of attorney-client video conference calls.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED BY THE COURT that CCA, and the detention facilities in Kansas or Missouri that house detainees charged in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas shall FORTHWITH submit written confirmation to the United States Marshal for the District of Kansas that the facilities are not audio or video recording any type of attorney client communications.
Now, the recording that the prosecution presented to the Grand Jury that started this ball rolling didn’t have audio, just visuals, but that doesn’t matter. It’s recording a privileged communication between lawyer and client.
Moreover, it’s clear that the judge is aware that audio recordings are also being made. So, the private prison company has been recording things.
CCA Prisons in Texas
Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) is a for-profit company that makes its money by operating prisons and detention centers across the country. It’s the biggest private corrections company in the United States, and it owns and operates facilities in states like Kansas, Missouri, and Texas as a service to the states. CCA makes literally BILLIONS of dollars doing this sort of thing.
Go here to see the map of all the CCA facilities currently operating in Texas. According to their web site, they include the Dallas Transitional Center; the Fort Worth Transitional Center; and the Bradshaw State Jail in Hendersonville, Texas.
Do we know that these CCA facilities are recording attorney-client communications? No. No idea. The revelation is specific to the Leavenworth facility that CCA operates in Kansas. Maybe that’s the only one, just a fluke, right?
Comments are welcomed here and I will respond to you -- but please, no requests for personal legal advice here and nothing that's promoting your business or product. Comments are moderated and these will not be published.