Las Vegas Sun

September 21, 2019

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Court says Metro must turn over inmate phone records

CARSON CITY — The Nevada Supreme Court ruled today that the state’s public records law applies to telephone calls made by jail inmates in Las Vegas.

The court said Metro Police must compile and turn over an estimated 6,100 pages of records to Blackjack Bonding Inc., which sought information regarding calls made to other bail bonds companies.

Blackjack, according to court documents, wanted to gather information about how competitors were getting business from inmates. The information includes the number dialed and the length of the conservation.

The names of the inmates will be eliminated from the records, and Blackjack has agreed to pay the cost of gathering the information.

The court said the police department failed to demonstrate the request was “financially burdensome” and that the information sought was public record.

In 2011, Metro signed a contract with CenturyLink, a private telecommunications provider, to provide inmate telephone service. CenturyLink receives payment from the recipient of the calls.

Metro maintained the information is held by a private company and is not subject to the public records law, according to court documents.

The court said Metro “has a duty to provide nonconfidential public records over which it has legal custody or control.”

Justice Nancy Saitta, who wrote the court’s decision, said the police agency has legal control of the records and that CenturyLink has the capacity to produce the records.

The court upheld the decision of Clark County District Court Judge Jerry Wiese, who ruled the information sought fell under the public records law. It overturned his decision that attorneys for Blackjack Bonding were not entitled to collect fees.

The court said Blackjack “was a prevailing party and is entitled to recover attorney fees and costs associated with its efforts to secure access to the telephone records despite the fact that it was to pay the costs of production.”

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