- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 14, 2017

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Attorneys for a civil rights group will argue next week why they feel a South Carolina jail policy preventing them from meeting with inmates should be suspended during an ongoing lawsuit.

Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union and the Spartanburg County jail are scheduled to participate in a hearing in federal court on June 22, according to a notice filed online Tuesday.

The ACLU sued last month, accusing the jail of having an inmate visitation policy that violates the First Amendment. County officials, the group has said, denied ACLU attorneys’ request to interview inmates as part of the organization’s two-year investigation of the constitutional rights of South Carolina inmates.

According to the suit, the ACLU tried to gather information through face-to-face interviews, but that request was denied. Jail officials have said policy prohibits attorneys from visiting inmates unless they have an existing lawyer-client relationship, and county authorities have argued their officers are immune from the legal challenge because they were doing their jobs, in accordance with laws and regulations.

At issue in next week’s hearing is the ACLU’s request that the visitation policy be suspended while the lawsuit is ongoing. In court papers, county officials and their attorneys have reiterated their commitment to the existing policy. In an affidavit, Sheriff Chuck Wright said his officers would be happy to follow policy and grant access once ACLU attorneys have established a relationship with inmates.



The ACLU is also seeking an award of attorneys’ fees and costs, as well as a judgment that the jail policy violates the First Amendment. Jail officials have requested a jury trial.

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Kinnard can be reached at https://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP. Read more of her work at https://apnews.com/search/meg%20kinnard.

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