AUBURN — A judge dismissed a lawsuit filed against Androscoggin County by a defense lawyer seeking access to inmate phone call recordings at the jail.

Criminal defense attorney Jesse James Ian Archer filed a Freedom of Access Act request for phone records from November and December involving an inmate who was not his client.

Archer had been seeking the records on behalf of a client Archer represents as a court-appointed attorney.

His initial request for the records had been denied by jail officials; Archer appealed to Androscoggin County Superior Court.

Androscoggin County attorney Peter Marchesi countered that the recordings are private and not subject to the state’s public access law.

Justice Harold Stewart II wrote a decision last week that sided with the county and dismissed the lawsuit.


In his civil complaint, Archer’s attorney, Verne Paradie, wrote that Archer was appealing to that court the rejection of his records request.

Paradie explained in his complaint that Marchesi’s response either means the jail has been invading the privacy of inmates or is refusing to turn over public records in violation of state statutes.

“Interestingly, the jail records all non-attorney/client inmate calls and indicates that the calls are not private,” Paradie wrote in the complaint.

“Further, upon simple verbal request, the jail provides any calls that are requested by state prosecutors,” he said. “The county’s position to plaintiff’s request either means that the county has been violating all inmates’ rights of privacy by providing the calls to prosecutors or the information is subject to disclosure as requested by plaintiff.”

In Archer’s complaint, he argues that he is acting as an “agent of the state” in his role as a court-appointed attorney for an indigent defendant equal to the role a prosecutor plays.

“The law does not support his position,” Stewart wrote in his April 5 order.


Marchesi had argued in his response to the lawsuit that the phone call records are not information relating to the transaction of public or governmental business and for that reason fall outside the definition of public records.

Without having any information about the purpose for which the phone calls were collected, Stewart ruled in agreement with the county.

“As it stands, it seems the calls at issue are only private calls, collected by the jail as a matter of course,” Stewart wrote. “The private conversations of inmates, on their own, are unrelated to the transaction of any public business and therefore are not public records under FOAA.”

Androscoggin County Jail Administrator Maj. Jeffrey Chute told the Sun Journal last month that the county contracts with Securus Technologies, a prison communications company, for its phone system that is used by inmates.

All phone calls made by inmates include a voice message at the start of the call that lets them know their calls are being recorded, Chute said.

Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office detectives and a “small group” of jail employees are authorized to listen to the recordings of calls from their computers that have the software necessary to access the stored recordings, Chute said, after first securing approval from a supervisor by showing a need for a particular recording.


The detectives or authorized deputies listen to calls to investigate crimes such as bail violations or prohibited contact with alleged victims, he said.

A prosecutor or defense attorney may request a recording directly from a detective by way of discovery for a criminal case or by seeking a recording through the courts, he said.

Androscoggin County Sheriff Eric Samson said Tuesday, “I’m glad our position was validated through the courts in looking out for the appropriate use of our phone systems, protecting the privacy of incarcerated individuals and following the law.”

Paradie responded to the judge’s order Tuesday, saying, “I’m obviously disappointed with the ruling and continue to think there should be no difference between prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys getting the phone calls from the jail.”

He said he had not spoken with Archer about the decision and whether to file an appeal.

“Criminal defendants are already at a disadvantage in the criminal justice system and prosecutors continue to hold the upper hand unfortunately,” he said.

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