A giant private prison company is going to court to try to get a lawyer to stop tweeting about them
from you-can’t-control-speech-outside-jail-too department
CoreCivic is one of the largest private prison corporations in the country. And while that should already be concerning, we even have private prison companies, CoreCivic seems to be particularly awful. Just last week, CoreCivic was before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals trying to overturn the dismissal of its SLAPP lawsuit it filed against investment firm Candide Group and a Forbes writer, Morgan Simon, for making statements about the company that turned out to be quite accurate. . In the process, CoreCivic tries to undermine California’s helpful anti-SLAPP law by saying it can’t be used in federal court (which the 9th Circuit has already allowed in other cases).
But, back in Tennessee (CoreCivic’s home state), the company is looking to remove the word in a different way: literally asking a court to issue a gag order on attorney Daniel Horwitz, who represents the family of Terry Childress, who died in one of CoreCivic’s hells. Horwitz tweeted about the case, including the revelation of some pretty damning documents about the Trousdale Turner Correctional Facility, where Childress died. Given the possibility that this thread is holey in memory, you can see a PDF belowalthough much of this thread is also featured in one of the filings below.
CoreCivic didn’t like it. It didn’t rain at all. He complained to Horwitz about his tweet and suggested he would ask the court to stop him from doing so. In response, Horwitz went to court first, ask the judge to rule that he could continue to discuss these issues publicly.
In particular, the plaintiffs ask the Court to issue an order affirming their and their attorney’s First Amendment rights to speak to and seek relief from the government regarding CoreCivic’s widespread failure to comply with constitutional requirements and standards of security at its Tennessee correctional facilities.
CoreCivic then filed a motion making it clear that it really, really wants to silence Horwitz. The record specifically asks the court to order Horwitz to “delete all public communications under their control, including social media posts” that CoreCivic said would “prejudice a fair trial, including comments regarding these lawsuits or the issues at issue in this lawsuit.” CoreCivic’s argument is that Horwitz tweeting how bad CoreCivic is, with documented evidence, will somehow bias a jury against CoreCivic. By that standard, any company sued for anything could silence virtually anyone. But that’s not how it’s all supposed to work.
And, of course, all that actually did is Streisand all that information that CoreCivic doesn’t want you to see about how it runs the Trousdale Turner Correctional Facility. CoreCivic’s filing is really something, as their main complaint is that Horwitz is so mean by highlighting documents showing how dangerous Trousdale is and how understaffed it is. Excerpt from the CoreCivic file:
Mr. Horwitz’s social media posts are blunt, a necessary requirement of Twitter, but extremely vicious in their verbiage. Some of Mr. Horwitz’s social media posts specifically mention Childress and argue that the defendants are responsible for his unfortunate death. Indeed, these posts call CoreCivic a “death factory” and argue that CoreCivic “kills[s]” people
Claims that Horwitz, the plaintiff’s attorney, would magically prejudice the jury are silly, but CoreCivic makes a fiery attempt to defend this nonsense.
More than that, Mr. Horwitz’s public comments will absolutely undermine the defendants’ ability to obtain a fair trial. They are intended for a broad audience and are aimed specifically at Mr. Horwitz’s nearly 8,000 Twitter followers and the general public. They were retweeted and shared multiple times, greatly increasing their reach. They were also picked up by local media with incredibly high volumes of readers and viewers, such as Channel 4 and The Tennessean. The negative impact on defendants and their right to a fair trial with an impartial jury cannot be underestimated. And, if allowed to continue, Mr. Horwitz’s public comments will only get worse, especially as the parties enter the written discovery and deposition phase of this lawsuit.
Yeah, maybe the reason news agencies care about them is because they’re newsworthy? Is CoreCivic really arguing that news outlets can’t cover a case or that it will prejudice a jury? There are simple ways to handle this during the voir dire process to determine whether or not a potential juror follows Horwitz or has seen any of these reports.
Either way, CoreCivic needs to learn that while it may be able to lock prisoners up in its private prisons, outside of those prisons freedom of speech still exists.
Filed Under: 1st amendment, anti-slapp, daniel horwitz, free speech, marie newby, prior restraint, private prisons, public records, slapp, terry childress