- Associated Press - Monday, August 15, 2016

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - 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 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.

In seeking a court-directed inquiry through a special master, the federal defender’s office noted in its court filing that it is limited in its ability to fully investigate the government’s conduct.

“A government investigation into its own misconduct is unsatisfactory for a multitude of reasons,” Federal Public Defender Melody Brannon wrote.

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.

“The U.S. attorney’s Office would not knowingly seek to obtain privileged attorney/client information,” spokesman Jim Cross said Monday in an email. “Our office will be responding to the court on this matter.”

Last week, Robinson held an emergency hearing on the practice and subsequently ordered all detention facilities housing federal detainees in Kansas and Missouri to stop all audio and video recordings of attorney-client communications. The judge also ordered the government to submit to the court all originals and copies of recordings in its possession or in the possession of law enforcement agents.

The Corrections Corporation of America said in an email that it’s fully complying with the judge’s order. Spokesman Jonathan Burns said the company does not record telephone conversations between inmates and their attorneys at Leavenworth or any other of its facilities.

“Video recordings of inmate/attorney meetings, which do not capture audio, are a standard practice in correctional and detention facilities throughout the country and are used solely to protect the safety and security of inmates, their attorneys and the broader correctional setting,” Burns said.

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