In March 2000, a group of family members, legal counsel and others who received collect telephone calls from New York state inmates filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. (The case was a companion action to state court litigation which appears in the ...
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In March 2000, a group of family members, legal counsel and others who received collect telephone calls from New York state inmates filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. (The case was a companion action to state court litigation which appears in the Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse as case PC-NY-49.) The defendants were state prison administrators and the telephone service provider (MCI), which had an exclusive contract with the state to provide telephone service in its' prisons. The plaintiffs, relying on 42 U.S.C. § 1983, were represented by attorneys for the Center for Constitutional Rights and private counsel. Complaining of excessively high rates for these collect calls and of a lack of options for alternate telephone service, as well as the high commission (nearly 60% of gross revenues) paid by MCI to the state under the contract, the plaintiffs asserted that their constitutional rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments had been violated, specifically their rights of freedom of association and to contract, as well as rights to due process and to equal protection of law. Plaintiffs also alleged anti-trust and tortuous interference with contract claims.
The defendants filed motions to dismiss the federal case, which were decided on August 29, 2005. In an unpublished order in Byrd v. Goord, District Judge George B. Daniels granted the state's motions to dismiss the plaintiffs' challenges to the exclusive services contract and to the collect call-only system, but he denied dismissal of the constitutional claims relating to the high-percentage commissions the state received under the contract. He also granted MCI's motion to be dismissed from the case, finding that the plaintiffs' claim against the company basically attacked its rates, an attack precluded by the filed rate doctrine. The court's ruling was followed by discovery proceedings, further motions and an effort to have the case certified as a class action.
Meanwhile, a new governor took office on January 8, 2007, and ordered that the commission received by the state prison system be eliminated by April 1, 2007. The telephone service contract was restructured to comply with the governor's directive. The defendants moved to dismiss the case as moot. On September 26, 2007, in an unpublished order, Judge Daniels granted the defense request, noting also that new state legislation had been enacted which prohibited the prison system from accepting or receiving revenue in excess of reasonable operating costs for providing telephone services for prisoners. Likewise, the judge ruled that the request for class certification was moot.
We have no information suggesting further activity in the case.Mike Fagan - 05/01/2008