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TN Court of Appeals Rules Against CCA for Second Time in PLN Public Records Case

By Prison Legal News

In February 2013, the Tennessee Court of Appeals issued its second ruling in a long-running lawsuit filed under the state’s Public Records Act against Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest for-profit private prison company. The Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling of the lower court, holding that CCA must produce documents that it had refused to disclose, plus pay attorney fees and costs.

The suit was filed by PLN managing editor Alex Friedmann. In 2007, CCA had denied Friedmann’s request for records related to litigation filed against CCA and for reports or audits that found contract violations by the company, among other documents. The Chancery Court ruled in Friedmann’s favor on July 29, 2008, finding that CCA was the functional equivalent of a government agency and ordering the company to produce the requested records. [See: PLN, Oct. 2008, p.24].

CCA appealed and the Court of Appeals affirmed in September 2009, noting, “With all due respect to CCA, this Court is at a loss as to how operating a prison could be considered anything less than a governmental function.” The appellate court narrowed the lower court’s ruling by exempting one CCA-run Tennessee prison (the South Central Correctional Center), finding that it fell under a different state statute. The case was then remanded to determine which records CCA would have to disclose. See: Friedmann v. CCA, 310 S.W.3d 366 (Tenn.Ct.App. 2009), review denied.

Following remand, CCA produced a number of the requested records, including hundreds of pages from reports and audits in which the company had been found in violation of or non-compliance with its contractual obligations to operate prisons and jails in Tennessee. However, CCA refused to produce copies of settlement agreements, verdicts or releases in cases where it had paid monetary damages to resolve lawsuits or claims. CCA also refused to release database printouts listing such settlements.

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