(No. M2008-01998-COA-R3-CV , Tennessee Court of Appeals for the Middle District)
Plaintiffs: Alex Friedmann
Defendants: Corrections Corporation of America (CCA)
In 2009, Alex Friedmann submitted an open records request to the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), a private prison company, on behalf of Prisoner Legal News (PLN). Friedmann sought to obtain various records regarding settlements that CCA had entered into with prisoners at its Tennessee facilities. CCA refused to comply with the request, asserting that they were not subject to the Open Records Act because they are a private entity and not a governmental body.
Friedmann filed suit to obtain the records. The Davidson County, Tennessee Chancery court found that CCA was the functional equivalent of a government agency in this circumstance, as they were providing a traditional public service and ordered the records produced. CCA appealed.
ACLU-TN filed an amicus brief in support of the position that CCA is the functional equivalent of a government agency and should be treated as such for open records purposes. Our amicus brief was joined by the Associated Press, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the American Society of Newspaper Editors, and The Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors.
In June 2009, the Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled that CCA was the functional equivalent of a government entity and thus subject to Tennessee’s open records law, and that they had a duty to disclose the requested documents.