Outside Legal Counsel PLC

OLC Forces the Michigan Prison System to Release Prisoner Telephone Recording

For Immediate Release | Oct 26, 2017

Hemlock, Michigan - The Michigan Court of Claims has sided with Outside Legal Counsel and its client, Scott Lewis Private Investigations, LLC, and ordered the disclosure of a withheld telephone recording created and kept by the Michigan Department of Corrections. The telephone recording had been sought under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act.

In July 2017, Scott Lewis Private Investigations, LLC sought a copy of a single telephone recording because the recording is believed to contain evidence that would exonerate or otherwise cast serious doubt about the conviction of an individual incarcerated within the state prison system. The Department of Corrections refused to provide a copy claiming the recording contains personal information subject to the privacy exemption and that releasing the record would prejudice its ability to maintain the physical security of custodial or penal institutions.

OLC challenged both false assertions.

Over the course of two orders [order #1 and order #2], the Court of Claims rejected the Department of Corrections arguments holding that there is no privacy interest in that telephone call and that the "speculation" of the Department "concerning the potential security risks posed by disclosure of the recording does not satisfy its burden of establishing a particularized justification for exemption." The Court ordered the disclosure of the recording.

This is the second telephone recording Outside Legal Counsel has forced the Department of Corrections to handover.

"Government secret records are rarely justified," states Philip L. Ellison, the FOIA attorney handling the case. "Challenging questionable excuses shines needed sunlight and transparency into the darkened records rooms of government."

As part of the mandatory relief in the case, the Court of Claims also awarded payment of attorney fees and costs, plus a new punitive award of $1,000.00 based on the 2014/2015 amendments to the FOIA statute.

More about the FOIA practice of Outside Legal Counsel can be accessed here.