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Claim of Right to Counsel Infringement Survives in Detainees’ Claim of Recorded Attorney Calls

A Florida federal district court granted in part and denied in part a defendant’s motion for summary judgment in a civil rights action that alleged the sheriff of Broward County violated the constitutional attorney-client privileges of a group of pretrial detainees by recording privilege conversations. The court granted summary judgment on claims of unreasonable search and seizure, and it denied summary judgment on claims of unreasonable infringement of the right to counsel.

The detainees filed a §1983 class action suit alleging they were members of a class of pretrial detainees who were deprived of reasonable expectations of privacy when their attorney-client phone calls were recorded. They also alleged that the tape recording of attorney-client communications deprived them of genuine and meaningful access to counsel. Plaintiff’s counsel filed an affidavit declaring that the privileged mail and personal visit alternatives for private phone calls do not provide reasonable or meaningful access to counsel because of the difficulties faced in attempting meaningful, effective, and regular communications with detainees.

The defendants argued that no unreasonable search and seizure took place because monitoring of all calls by detainees was a normal security measure, and the detainees and counsel consented to being recorded, so there was no reasonable expectation of privacy. Likewise, there was no denial of meaningful access to counsel when meaningful alternatives of privileged mail and private personal visits were available. The defendants requested the court to defer to their security concerns and grant summary judgment.

The district court held that there was no reasonable expectation of privacy after defendants advised detainees that the calls were monitored and recorded. The court granted summary judgment of the claim of unreasonable search and seizure. However, the court held that there is a genuine issue of material fact as to infringement of access to counsel based on a limited record presented and counsel’s affidavit stating that privileged mail and personal visits do not provide meaningful access to counsel. The court denied summary judgment on that claim.

See Sawchuk v. Jenne, U.S.D.C. S.D. Fla. Case no: 06-61182-Cir.

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Related legal case

Sawchuck v. Jenne

 

 

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