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Disciplinary Self-Help Litigation Manual
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Jail Records Protected Conversation: Federal District Court Does Not Dismiss Suit

A Florida federal district court denied a motion to dismiss a civil rights action that alleged the sheriff of Broward County violated the constitutional attorney-client privileges of a group of pre-trial detainees. The motion sought to dismiss Broward County, named as a defendant, on the basis that the sheriff represents the county in his official capacity.

In their §1983 civil suit, the detainees named Broward County and the Broward County sheriff’s office as defendants jointly liable for BSO policy that authorized the unconstitutional tape recording of privileged attorney-client conversations initiated by detainees.

Broward County argued that the sheriff’s office is an independent office, and since an action was already filed against the sheriff’s office, a separate suit naming Broward County as a defendant should be dismissed. The detainees replied that dismissal would be premature where no authority supporting dismissal had been presented.

The district court found that the Eleventh Circuit’s precedent holds that dismissal of the county in a case involving the county sheriff is improper. Dismissal is available only where it appears beyond a doubt that no set of facts can be proven that the detainees are entitled to relief.

The facts alleged showed that an alleged violation of the attorney-client privilege occurred by policy of the Broward County sheriff’s office. The Eleventh Circuit has held that the Eleventh Amendment does not bar a recovery against a county sheriff, and an official capacity suit against a county sheriff is a suit against the county, so dismissal of the county in this suit against the sheriff does not follow.

Because the sheriff may be sued in both his capacity as sheriff and as a county representative, the district court denied the motion to dismiss.

See: Sawchuck 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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