Category Archives: Legal.Services

Normal mixes in-house and outside legal counsel

Source: Derek Beigh, The Pantagraph, September 18, 2017
 
For the town of Normal, neither doing all its legal work in-house nor contracting all of it out makes sense.  “Our in-house attorneys are generalists, and they certainly have vast experience in municipal law and understand a wide range of municipal legal issues, but they are not specialists,” said City Manager Mark Peterson. … Peterson said the town has no plans to change its approach despite the city of Bloomington shifting in 2014 from a similar structure to a Springfield-based firm taking on most of its legal work. …

AALL 2017 attendees weigh in on library outsourcing

Source: Deborah Schwarz, LibSource, August 24, 2017

Last month at AALL’s Annual Conference in Austin, TX, HBR Consulting Managing Director Donna Terjesen and I participated in a panel discussion, Outsourcing Library Services, moderated by Cornell Winston, Law Librarian and Records Center Supervisor for the U.S. Attorney’s Office. We were expected to discuss our perspectives on outsourcing library services and were prepared to answer some tough questions from an audience of law librarians. My fellow panelists and I are grateful to AALL for providing a session to have a candid discussion about a topic that has often been the cause of much anxiety. I would like to share some of the thoughts expressed in our library outsourcing session, and also include opinions/comments that are often we hear. …

Listen to recording.

Maryland Judiciary fails to monitor contracts, audit finds

Source: Doug Donovan and Jean Marbella, The Baltimore Sun, May 10, 2017

Maryland’s court system has failed for years to properly monitor how it spent tens of millions of dollars in contracts and lacked adequate oversight to prove it was getting the most cost-effective deals for taxpayers, a state audit released Friday has found. The Maryland Judiciary lacked “sufficient documentation” to support four contract awards totaling $26 million between July 1, 2012, and Dec. 20, 2015, the audit reported. … Auditors said the judiciary did not provide adequate cost-benefit analyses to support the award of two contracts to existing vendors: a five-year, $21 million contract for Internet services, and a four-year, $2.1 million contract for a digital recording system. In the latter contract, there was a competing bid for almost two-thirds less, $736,000, according to the audit. Additionally, the judiciary didn’t save information about the losing bidders’ proposals for three contracts totaling about $5 million. … The audit also raised concerns about the number of staff allowed to access the purchasing and payment system; the security of its financial management system and database; the processing of traffic citations; and the controls over its equipment and warehouses. … The findings come as the Maryland Judiciary is beginning to prepare a report requested by the Department of Legislative Services to explain “the apparent pattern of overbudgeting” for the state’s Clerks of the Circuit Court offices, according to budget analysis documents. Between 2012 and 2016 the clerks offices were allocated up to 9 percent more than they spent, a surplus that funded other efforts “without the opportunity for the General Assembly to vet those purposes,” according to the legislative services analysis. …

How private contractors are taking over data in the public domain

Source: Miranda S. Spivack, Center for Investigative Reporting, Reveal, January 23, 2017

State and local laws usually can be found online. But in the District and dozens of other cities and states, the rights to publish those laws don’t belong to the people or the governments. They belong to private contractors. … Government agencies, in many instances, have given contractors exclusive rights to the data. The government then removes it from public view online or never posts the data, laws and documents that are considered public information.  Public datasets that state and local governments are handing off to private contractors include court records and judicial opinions; detailed versions of state and local laws and, in some cases, the laws themselves; building codes and standards; and public university graduation records.  Much of the information collected and stored by private data companies such as LexisNexis, Westlaw or CrimeMapping.com is not available to the public without a price. The information that is available often is not searchable, cannot be compared with data from other jurisdictions and cannot be copied unless members of the public pay hundreds or thousands of dollars in subscription fees.

… The bottom line is good for the vendors, which can make millions of dollars from the sale of public information. But the public, who paid for the information to be developed in the first place, often is left on the outside, unable to get to the information as quickly as the private vendor, if they can get it at all, without paying for it. … These governments, lacking sophisticated coders and software experts, have contracted with private companies that translate the raw data into maps and conduct other analyses. But in a vast number of these deals, the contractor gets to control the flow of information, restrict its duplication and downloading, and repackage and sell it to other clients, such as businesses, that want quick information about crime near their facilities. Or they publish state laws, regulations and building codes – sometimes with commentary – and then sell the records, often becoming the only “public” source of the information. …

Lawyer alleges federal prosecutor said he could listen to attorney-prisoner phone calls

Source: Jonathan Shorman, Topeka Capital-Journal, October 26, 2016

An attorney for an inmate at the Leavenworth Detention Center alleges federal prosecutors not only obtained recordings of her client’s phone calls with a lawyer, but also listened to them. Melanie Morgan said in court documents filed Wednesday that an assistant U.S. attorney indicated that he could “freely listen” to calls between her client, Michelle Reulet, and another defense lawyer. Morgan, a Kansas City-based attorney, charges the prosecutor defended his actions, saying the lawyer no longer represents Reulet. Morgan said that wasn’t the case. Disclosures in the ongoing saga over the surveillance of detainees at the detention center, run by Corrections Corporation of America, had slowed after U.S. District Court Judge Julie Robinson appointed a special master earlier this month to examine the situation. Prisoner phone calls with attorneys have been recorded and videos were made of attorney-client meeting rooms. … The controversy over the recordings emerged in the background of a sprawling investigation of drug and contraband trafficking within Leavenworth Detention Center. A handful of people have been charged, but prosecutors indicate they believe upwards of 90 inmates may be involved as well as a number of workers. Defense attorneys representing inmates have said the recordings violate the inmates’ Sixth Amendment rights. But prosecutors have argued the phone recordings are not privileged because the facility warned inmates their calls may be recorded. …

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Federal Judge Names Ohio Expert In Kansas Prison Recordings Case
Source: Associated Press, October 12, 2016

A federal judge in Kansas has appointed an Ohio attorney to investigate whether recordings of attorney-client conversations at a for-profit federal prison violated inmates’ constitutional rights. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson on Tuesday appointed David R. Cohen as special master, or expert, to identify and retain confidential information contained in recordings at the Corrections Corporation of America facility in Leavenworth

Defense lawyer raises new questions about secretly recorded jailhouse calls
Source: Jeff German, Las Vegas Review Journal, October 5, 2016

A defense lawyer has stepped forward to allege the federal detention center in Pahrump secretly recorded her confidential phone conversations with a client and then turned over the recordings to prosecutors in the case. Kathleen Bliss, a former longtime federal prosecutor, cited the alleged attorney-client breaches this week in a motion to dismiss a robbery case against her client, Robert Kincade, because of government misconduct. … They said hundreds of federal inmates at the Pahrump facility, run by Corrections Corporation of America, might be affected, and they asked a judge to appoint a special master to determine whether the practice is widespread. In her motion, Bliss said prosecutors in June turned over hundreds of recordings of Kincade at the detention center, including some with her. … Prosecutors on Wednesday filed a new indictment against Kincade, who has been at the Pahrump detention center for the past 18 months, charging him with a series of bank robberies between 2011 and 2014. Corrections Corporation of America, which operates federal detention centers across the country, has been “lambasted” by federal judges for invading the privacy of inmates at some of the company’s other facilities, Bliss wrote. …

Leavenworth CCA phone provider was accused of recording attorney calls in Texas
Source: Jonathan Shorman, Topeka Capital-Journal, September 16, 2016

Before revelations last month about the recording of inmate calls at Leavenworth Detention Center, a coalition of attorneys sued in Texas accusing a county sheriff, prosecutors and a phone technology company of recording attorney-client calls, despite assurances they didn’t. That company — Securus — also provides phone services to the Leavenworth facility. … The continuing disclosures surrounding recordings at the detention center, run by Corrections Corporation of America, has frustrated lawyers. Attorney-client privilege is a bedrock principle of the American legal system — a protection defense attorneys argue was violated at Leavenworth. It is unknown at this point how many attorney-client calls were recorded at Leavenworth, and how many attorneys were recorded despite requests to be shielded. Nor is it known why one attorney’s calls were recorded despite his requests otherwise. …

How a prison drug smuggling case in Kansas led to a showdown over recordings of inmate-attorney talks
Source: Johnathan Shorman, Topeka Capital-Journal, August 17, 2016

When attorneys said in court Tuesday that phone calls between lawyers and inmates at Leavenworth Detention Center had been recorded and obtained by federal prosecutors, the development was just the latest revelation in what a United States public defender says was a systemic violation of constitutional rights. The assertions by defense attorneys that federal prosecutors obtained video recordings of in-person meetings and audio of calls between inmates and their lawyers at Leavenworth Detention Center have already affected criminal cases resulting from a sprawling investigation of drug trafficking within the facility. Other cases could be ensnared as well. … The recordings have been brought to light as part of the ongoing prosecution of seven individuals who are accused of participating in a smuggling ring while in Leavenworth Detention Center, a facility privately run by Corrections Corporation of America. …

New Disclosure: Attorney-Client Phone Calls Were Recorded At Leavenworth Detention Center
Source: Don Margolies, KCUR, August 16, 2016

New revelations emerged at a court hearing today that the private prison contractor operating a pretrial detention center in Leavenworth recorded phone conversations between attorneys and their clients and turned them over to federal prosecutors.   The disclosures came atop revelations at a hearing last Tuesday that the contractor, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), had made video recordings of meetings at the Leavenworth Detention Center between lawyers and their clients and turned those over to prosecutors. … Brannon’s impassioned denunciation elicited an objection from Assistant U.S. Attorney Debra Barnett, who said Brannon was making allegations against her colleagues without proof. Judge Robinson, however, let Brannon continue. Brannon told Robinson that communications between her office and the U.S. Attorney’s office had broken down and urged that as an additional reason to appoint a special master. … Brannon also told the court that government prosecutors had made additional, unspecified threats against the private attorney who first disclosed that the government possessed privileged communications between attorneys and their clients. Robinson granted her request to present that information in the judge’s chambers, so further details were not available. …

Kansas federal public defender requests inquiry into jail recordings
Source: Roxana Hegeman, Wichita Eagle, August 16, 2016

The federal public defender’s office in Kansas on Monday requested a special master’s inquiry into prison recordings of confidential conversations between inmates and their attorneys. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson has scheduled a hearing for Tuesday to determine the appointment and scope of a special master in the case. The practice surfaced in a case over distribution of contraband at the Leavenworth Detention Center in which video recordings, which contained no audio, were subpoenaed by a grand jury. But the defense outcry is now rippling across cases. … Brannon contends the Corrections Corporation of America has routinely and surreptitiously recorded video of meetings between counsel and clients that were supposed to be confidential, as well as attorney-client phone calls that were recorded and provided to the U.S. Attorney’s Office without notice to the defendants.

Recordings Of Attorney-Client Meetings Spur Outrage Among Criminal Defense Lawyers
Source: Dan Margolies, KCUR, August 12, 2016

An investigation into the distribution of contraband at the Leavenworth Detention Center has morphed into an explosive case involving possible violations of attorney-client privilege on a massive scale. Evidence at a hearing Tuesday revealed that the private contractor operating the facility, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), made video recordings of confidential conversations between inmates and their attorneys and passed some of it on to government prosecutors in response to a grand jury subpoena. … The Kansas Federal Public Defender Office says it first learned of the recordings last week after a private attorney, Jacquelyn Rokusek, was told by federal prosecutors they had evidence, in the form of a video recording, that she had a conflict of interest and should withdraw from a related case. The Federal Public Defender represents about 75 clients at CCA Leavenworth, a pretrial detention center that houses inmates from Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa. Rokusek was later given an opportunity to review the recording, which included videos of meetings between other attorneys and their clients. She brought the recording’s existence to the attention of an employee of the Federal Public Defender, which led to the emergency hearing on Tuesday. … The existence of the recordings was disclosed in court by Rokusek, who was put on the witness stand by Melody Brannon, the head of the Kansas Federal Public Defender’s office. Brannon told the court that CCA had video recordings of attorney-client meetings in the contraband case spanning a 10-month period from July 2015 to April 2016. … Unknown at this point is whether CCA has recorded attorney-client meetings at its other facilities and whether it routinely turns the footage over to prosecutors. CCA manages 85 facilities for federal, state and local governments throughout the country, according to information on its website. …

County unlikely to privatize EMS, libraries

Source: Gary Pinnell, Highlands Today, August 14, 2016

A push to transfer 10 county departments to private employers began in 2013 when Positive Mobility’s Ron Layne suggested ambulances for hire should transport non-emergency patients. Tea party members stood in front of the county commission and lobbied for months for Layne’s plan. … But the emergency part of the ambulance service is unlikely to be privatized, three commissioners said Tuesday. … The commissioners went a lot farther down the road to privatizing county services in a 2014 goal-setting workshop: recycling, landfill, libraries, Healthy Families, real estate surveying, fleet maintenance, asphalt production and road paving. Bids were accepted for janitorial services for county offices, but the issue was always a non-starter with constitutional officers. … Elwell pointed out in November that the county privatized tourism by replacing tourism director John Scherlacher with a contract with Gray Dog Communications. Brooks and Elwell said privatizing libraries was a non-starter. … The county continues to look at farming out Healthy Families, a home visitation program for expectant parents and parents of newborns. The program is designed to educate parents and improve childhood outcomes. An Aug. 2 note from County Administrator June Fisher to commissioners said, “holding periodic meetings with interested parties and non-profits to continue the discussion of partnership opportunities.” Commissioners un-privatized the county attorney’s office. Last year, Ross Macbeth was in private practice and billed the county an average of $246,000 per year. …

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One item completed on county privatization list
Source: Gary Pinnell, Highlands Today, October 28, 2015

Nineteen months after commissioners agreed to privatize 10 Highlands County functions, they’re still months away from completing the second item. The top-ten list that came out of the March 2, 2014 goal-setting workshop included transferring EMS to private ambulance companies, recycling, legal services, fleet maintenance, real estate surveying, Healthy Families and janitorial. Contracting with a company to clean county buildings is now off the table. … Handley doesn’t think privatizing the landfill will happen, though. … In a report to commissioners last week, County Administrator June Fisher said EMS revenues and expenditures have been reviewed. “We’re still waiting on a needs assessment,” Elwell said. The final report will disclose options for EMS and the volunteer fire departments to combine. “Maybe we could move toward fire-rescue, and have one crew instead of two, with cross-trained personnel.” … “I don’t think EMS will be privatized,” Richie said. … Commissioners un-privatized the county attorney. Ross Macbeth was a part-timer who ran a private practice and contracted with the county. But during one three-year period, he billed $1 million, and the commissioners saw a cost-saving opportunity. As of Oct. 1, Macbeth has moved into a county office, and hired a secretary and assistant attorney, both to be paid by the county. … County staff visited a county library in Sumter County that had been privatized. “The staff met them, and they said they would not recommend it. It’s a different situation, and the people they met with didn’t recommend it.”

Freeport aldermen continue discussion on outsourcing legal service amid protest

Source: Jillian Duchnowski, Journal Standard, March 21, 2016

Aldermen plan to continue weighing a proposal to outsource the city’s legal department after discussing some basic questions at tonight’s City Council meeting. Mayor Jim Gitz and some aldermen said they only learned of the proposal, sponsored by 1st Ward Ald. Tom Klemm and Ald.-at-large Andrew Chesney, on Friday, which is when agenda materials typically are posted for the next meeting. State law mandates that city leaders can discontinue or reduce an appointed office only at the end of the fiscal year, so Klemm pushed his fellow aldermen to continue the approval process — as they ultimately did — while still giving time to discuss the matter further. … Tonight’s City Council meeting didn’t produce a clear view of the finances involved. Chensey said the city’s costs for the legal department, not including benefits and the long-term pension costs for the department’s two staff members or legal costs billed to departments other than the legal department, increased from about $178,500 in the fiscal year that ended in April 2012 to an expected $380,610 for the current fiscal year, which ends April 30. He estimated the benefits, not including long-term pension costs, amounted to about $75,000 this fiscal year.

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Freeport considering outsourcing city legal department
Source: Jillian Duchnowski, Journal Standard, March 18, 2016

Freeport city leaders are considering outsourcing the city’s two-person legal department in light of shifting legal needs, increased pension obligations and other financial strains. … If approved, the department would be eliminated at the start of the new fiscal year May 1, and Mayor Jim Gitz would appoint, with advice and consent of the aldermen, an outside attorney or firm to provide legal services at costs set by the City Council.

Warren County decides against privatizing county attorney post

Source: Don Lehman, Post-Star, December 11, 2015

Warren County supervisors have decided privatization of the county attorney post is not the way to go. The Board of Supervisors Personnel Committee voted Wednesday against pursuing a proposal by Glens Falls law firm Miller, Mannix, Schachner & Hafner LLC. The committee will instead interview three lawyers who applied for the county attorney position, and then decide whether they want to hire one of them or seek additional applications. … The county has been supplementing its county attorney’s office in recent years with assistance from the Glens Falls law firm of Bartlett, Pontiff Stewart & Rhodes to assist with labor contract negotiations, the sale of Westmount Health Facility and advice for possible litigation against Siemens Building Systems, at a tab of up to $4,000 per month for each matter.

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Public defenders consider shared services when conflicts arise
Source: Don Lehman, Post-Star, April 30, 2012

A number of county public defender’s offices in the region are discussing sharing services in an effort to keep bills down for lawyers the counties have to hire when defenders have conflicts of interest. Warren County Public Defender John Wappett sought permission Monday from the county Board of Supervisors Criminal Justice Committee to explore an intermunicipal agreement with other counties that could save the counties thousands of dollars in legal fees. The counties often have to hire lawyers to represent indigent defendants when they have a conflict of interest that keeps the public defender’s office from representing those clients. The most common conflict of interest occurs in cases where there are multiple defendants, because the public defender’s office can only represent one defendant in a case. Public defender’s offices in each county would trade off handling conflict cases in their counties.

County looking at outsourcing jury summons

Source: Nathaniel Miller, OA Online, November 13, 2015

Officials are hoping outsourcing the mailing of jury summons in Ector County not only helps streamline the process, but also brings in more potential jurors as the courthouse looks at more jury weeks in 2016. The process of sending out physical jury summons is still handled by staff in the Ector County district and county clerk offices, but on Monday Ector County Commissioners approved bid specifications for hiring an outside vendor to mail physical copies of the summons. …

In Arbitration, a ‘Privatization of the Justice System’

Source: Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Michael Corkery, New York Times, November 1, 2015

Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 of a three part series on fine print in contracts, read Part 1 here.

Over the last 10 years, thousands of businesses across the country — from big corporations to storefront shops — have used arbitration to create an alternate system of justice. There, rules tend to favor businesses, and judges and juries have been replaced by arbitrators who commonly consider the companies their clients, The Times found. … All it took was adding simple arbitration clauses to contracts that most employees and consumers do not even read. Yet at stake are claims of medical malpractice, sexual harassment, hate crimes, discrimination, theft, fraud, elder abuse and wrongful death, records and interviews show. … For companies, the allure of arbitration grew after a 2011 Supreme Court ruling cleared the way for them to use the clauses to quash class-action lawsuits. Prevented from joining together as a group in arbitration, most plaintiffs gave up entirely, records show. Still, there are thousands of Americans who — either out of necessity or on principle — want their grievances heard and have taken their chances in arbitration. Little is known about arbitration because the proceedings are confidential and the federal government does not require cases to be reported. The secretive nature of the process makes it difficult to ascertain how fairly the proceedings are conducted.