The criminal justice monitoring group Court Watch NOLA is calling for the end of recording phone conversations between attorneys and their incarcerated clients.
Talks held at the Orleans Parish jail between attorneys and their clients are recorded and given to the District Attorney’s Office for review. Court Watch NOLA Executive Director Simone Levine says the Constitution guarantees a person’s right to counsel. And that requires confidential conversations.
“These desperate calls for help between an attorney and their client – The Sheriff’s Office is recording them. Not recording some of them, but all of them. Turning them over to the District Attorney’s Office, the same office prosecuting the defendant.”
Lawyers can have a private talk with their clients in rooms at the jail, or on a landline phone. But attorneys say there are often long waits for those rooms, and many attorneys use only cell phones. A message notifies callers that they are being recorded.
((Daley 1))District Attorney spokesman Ken Daley:
“If the defense attorney shuns either of those protected methods and choses to converse with a client on a phone line that they’ve already been warned is being monitored and recorded, they basically eviscerated any claim of privilege.”
Court Watch volunteers monitored nearly 800 hearings in courtrooms in 2017. They found a shortage of interpreters, defendants speaking on the record without an attorney — despite having a right to counsel — and court proceedings that often run late, stranding police officers waiting to testify.