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Monday April 21st 2014

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Attorney-Client Privilege: The Movie

The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office is again being scrutinized over questionable recording equipment in interview rooms.

After apparently learning of plans to install video cameras in rooms designated for inmates to meet with their attorneys, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida has requested that Sheriff David Morgan scuttle the designs.

“Given the constitutional concerns raised by the use of these video cameras in the attorney interview rooms,” wrote ACLU staff attorney Benjamin Stevenson in a Feb. 15 letter, “we ask that you immediately discontinue the planned installation of these cameras and take action to ensure legally privileged conversations necessary for a fair trial are respected in your facility.”

The ACLU contends that monitoring an inmate’s attorney-client meeting violates the right to a confidential meeting. In Stevenson’s letter, it is explained that sheriff office officials believe the cameras will serve to protect attorneys when meeting with inmates.

“They’re coming up with a solution to an invented problem,” Stevenson said. “—with constitutional implications, that’s the problem.”

Last fall, the ACLU confronted Sheriff Morgan on similar grounds when it was discovered that jail officials had the ability to listen in on conversations being held in attorney-client meeting rooms. Morgan said he had been unaware the rooms were wired in such away and reportedly disabled the audio capabilities.

Stevenson said he was optimistic that Sheriff Morgan would simply abandon any plans to install cameras in such areas once it was brought to his attention that such measures would open a constitutional can of worms.

“We’re obviously hopeful that we’ll get a positive reaction,” he said.

The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office released a statement on the matter today through an attorney.

“ECSO can confirm only the fact, which is already a matter of common knowledge, that video security cameras are installed in various locations throughout the Escambia County Jail and Central Booking and Detention,” wrote G.E. Champagne, general counsel for Morgan. “We cannot comment further concerning the use and placement of these cameras without compromising this essential security system.”