Thursday, July 31, 2008
By the Way / Hannan / Law and Order
Alex Friedmann & Co. Deftly Sidestep CCA's Semantics
by Caleb Hannan
on Thu, Jul 31, 2008 at 11:43 AM
, was there on behalf of Prison Legal News
(PLN) where he works as associate editor.
Back in April of ‘07, PLN made a formal request for CCA records. The paper wanted to know how much the prison-operator paid out in lawsuit settlements. CCA said it couldn’t have the info.
PLN’s logic seemed simple enough. Locking up criminals is a public service. And even though CCA is a private company, 100 percent of its funding comes from the government, making it subject to the same transparency expected of their agencies. Simple, right?
If you answered “yes,” then you’re obviously not a lawyer…
Because if you’d been to law school, you would have understood CCA's higher allegiance to semantics.
Using the patented “Grasping at Straws” stratagem, CCA lawyers argued that the millions the company gets from Tennessee each year isn’t technically funding. It's “contractual payments for services rendered.”
See? Running a prison is just like paying your cell phone bill. You wouldn’t call the money you give Verizon every month “funding,” would you? Good. Glad to know you’re not a commie.
Fortunately for PLN and fans of logic everywhere, the ruling judge wasn’t havin’ it.
“The court just cut right through that (argument),” says Friedmann.
Which means a momentary victory for Friedmann and PLN, even if CCA is almost guaranteed to appeal. We'll keep ya posted.
On Tuesday, Alex Friedmann and CCA went to court. Friedmann, whose Dumpster-diving exploits we profiled