The Third District Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Human Rights Defense Counsel and reversed the dismissal of the organization’s public records lawsuit against Armor Correctional Health. The First Amendment Foundation, along with Southern Poverty Law Center and ACLU, submitted an amicus brief in the case.
HRDC requested records from Armor, a private contractor providing public services. The contractor refused to provide the records, and HRDC brought a writ of mandamus against Armor, seeking compliance with the public records law. The lower court, however, dismissed the writ and ruled HRDC must sue the government agency. In an amicus brief, FAF, SPLC, and ACLU argued that requiring the public to sue the government agency for records solely in the possession of a third-party contractor would create an unreasonable burden and undue delay in obtaining public records. Further, amicus argued that access to public records of third-party contractors is critical to ensuring monitoring of the constitutional rights of prisoners.
In reversing the lower court’s order, the Third DCA explained that “the right to access public records is of a constitutional magnitude…” The case against Armor can proceed.
As more prison services become privatized, access to contractor’s records is vital to oversight of Florida’s jails and prisons.