Thursday, June 08, 2006

Listening in on Attorney Client conversations isn't just for Terrorists Anymore

Something very sinister is happening in LA County. It hasn't gotten any press yet (that I know of), but either the Distict Attorney, Sheriffs or police are getting orders from some really dumb judges to allow surveillance of ALL conversations that inmates engage in, including, at times, conversations with their lawyers.

Evidently this became known when, in Pasadena, it was found out that the police were bugging the lockup area where attorneys would often talk with their clients. Evidently they did this in one instance where they put two co-defendants next to eachother (a husband and wife, from what I hear), and one defendant kept pleading with the other to take the rap. In the tapes turned over to the lawyers on the case, another lawyer was heard talking with his client in another room right next door.

Just about all of our conversations with our clients are "monitorable," meaning, the Police have the ability to record nearly everything we say to our clients. However, having the ability to do it and actually doing are totally different. It now appears as if they are abusing that quite frequently. It is unclear if they are monitoring phone calls to lawyers, video conferences to lawyers, meetings with lawyers in the jails (we have to use those stupid phones to talk to our clients). The sheriff's department just redid the men's central jail so that there are no more face to face visits, but everything goes through that thick glass and a phone - and thus can be easily monitored (the only people doing interviews in that area are lawyers).

I've long held the slippery slope belief about many of the erosions of our civil liberties, that you start doing it with the "really" bad folk, and then move on to the less bad folk, until you're doing it to everyone. This has been the case with the terrorism prosecutions, where they would only name people like Osama an enemy combatant, until they started doing it to people like Padilla, for whom there was little evidence of terrorist activity. In Israel, I've seen quite a few hard-right wingers pissed off at the manner in which the police disperse settlers from illegal settlements, they're too rough, the right wingers complain. These, of course, are the same people who complained that the soldiers should be rougher with Palestinian demonstrators (guess what, teach them to be rough with protesters, and they'll go after you soon enough).

Now, after all of this talk about listening in on lawyer/client communications in the case of terrorism, the local police have taken the baton and run with it - why not do it on our cases. After all, isn't vandalism a form of "domestic terrorism?"

1 comment:

Poverty Lawyer 1 said...

My God. That's scary stuff. I've never heard anything like that happening in my neck of the woods, but it wouldn't suprise me (sadly).