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TN Court of Appeals rules in PLN public records suit against CCA

Prison Legal News, Jan. 1, 2009.
Press release - TN Court of Appeals rules in PLN public records suit against CCA - 2009


Prison Legal News – For Immediate Release

August 6, 2009


Nashville, TN – On August 5, the Tennessee Court of Appeals issued a ruling in a public records lawsuit filed against Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest private prison company.

The suit was filed by Alex Friedmann, Associate Editor of Prison Legal News (PLN), a non-profit monthly publication that reports on criminal justice-related issues; PLN relies on public records requests to obtain information about prison and jail operations. In 2007, CCA denied Friedmann’s request for documents related to lawsuits filed against CCA and for reports or audits that found contract violations by the company. The Chancery Court of Davidson County ruled in Friedmann’s favor on July 29, 2008 and ordered CCA to produce the records.

On appeal, CCA strenuously argued that it was not subject to the Public Records Act because it was a private company that was not the "functional equivalent of a state agency." The Court of Appeals rejected this argument. "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 observed, noting that the "Tennessee Constitution requires the State to provide for its prisoners," which is an inherent state function.

Thus, the Court of Appeals decided "without difficulty" that CCA was the functional equivalent of a state agency, which, based on Tennessee Supreme Court precedent, would make CCA subject to the Public Records Act. However, the appellate court also ruled that Friedmann’s public records request should be limited to records specified in the Private Prison Contracting Act, which is the state statute that governs contracts with private prison companies.

"This is an important ruling that benefits the public," said PLN associate editor Alex Friedmann. "The Court of Appeals has ruled that CCA is clearly the functional equivalent of a state agency, and cannot escape its responsibility to produce public records as defined by the Court."

A number of organizations had filed briefs in support of PLN’s appeal, due to the importance of this issue as it relates to public oversight when government services are privatized. These organizations included the Tennessee ACLU, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Associated Press, American Society for Newspaper Editors, Society of Professional Journalists, and Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors.

The case is Friedmann v. CCA, Tenn. Court of Appeals at Nashville, Case No. M2008-01998-COA-R3-CV. PLN was represented on appeal by attorney Andrew Clarke of the Memphis law firm of Borod and Kramer, PLC.

Prison Legal News (PLN), founded in 1990 and based in Seattle, Washington, is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting human rights in U.S. detention facilities. PLN publishes a monthly magazine that includes reports, reviews and analysis of court rulings and news related to prisoners' rights and criminal justice issues. PLN has almost 7,000 subscribers nationwide and operates a website ( that includes a comprehensive database of prison and jail-related articles, news reports, court rulings, verdicts, settlements and related documents. PLN is a project of the Human Rights Defense Center.

For further information, please contact:

Alex Friedmann, Associate Editor
Prison Legal News
5331 Mt. View Road #130
Antioch, TN 37013
(615) 495-6568

Andrew C. Clarke
Borod and Kramer, PLC
80 Monroe Avenue, Suite G-1
Memphis, TN 38103
(901) 271-2723

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