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Omaha attorney receives settlement from prison eavesdropping lawsuit

Published: Feb. 2, 2021 at 9:36 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - An Omaha attorney gets a shock in the mail. A hefty settlement check but it’s not for a client.

A statue in his office shows that justice is blind and means nobody should be listening when attorney James Martin Davis has calls with his clients.

Davis had several Omaha clients held on federal charges at a private detention center in Leavenworth, Kansas. The operator faced a class action suit and a Kansas City attorney contacted Davis.

James Martin Davis, a defense attorney said, “And your telephone conversations and your private meetings with your clients at CCA did you know that they were intercepted and recorded? And I said no.”

The private operator of the prison, CoreCivic, and a phone system provider agreed to a $3.7 million settlement with about 750 attorneys including Davis. While the settlement states there were attorneys who had communication with their clients either monitored or recorded, the private company that operates the detention center says there is no wrongdoing.

A CoreCivic spokesman said the company has worked hard with all parties to resolve the issue. Based on the number of client calls and meetings monitored, Davis got a settlement check for about $6,500.

“This is the first time I had another law firm go to bat for me and others and I get rewarded in the process,” said Davis.

But not for free.

JMD: The award is $10,000 and the attorney fee is one third.

MM: So you had to pay an attorney fee, did you mind?

JMD: Well not at all.

On the other side of the attorney-client privilege, there was also a settlement.

An unknown number of federal prisoners who were held at the private detention facility in Kansas from 2013 to last year will split nearly $1.5 million.

This is the response from a Securus spokesman:

This is the company that operated the phones within the private prison that recorded the attorney-client conversations

“Securus appreciates the importance of protecting calls between incarcerated individuals and their attorneys. A multi-year investigation by a federal district judge into the issues at Leavenworth Detention Center ultimately concluded that these instances of attorney conversations being recorded were the result of human error on the part of attorneys and correctional staff and not a failure of Securus’ technology platform.

Our call systems allow attorneys to work with correctional agencies to classify their phone numbers as private and prevent their calls from being recorded. If phone numbers are not entered into the system as private, callers are notified that the call will in fact be recorded. In these cases, it appears that the attorneys’ phone numbers were not put into the system, the notification was not heeded, and the calls were recorded as designed.

We are troubled by any misuse of our technology, even if unintentional, which is why we are making substantial investments in product use training and making recording notifications even more prominent.”

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