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County of Nevada v. Superior Court (Siegfried)

California Court of Appeals, Third District, Nevada

April 23, 2015

COUNTY OF NEVADA et al., Petitioners,
v.
THE SUPERIOR COURT OF NEVADA COUNTY, Respondent JACOB MICHAEL SIEGFRIED et al., Real Parties in Interest.

Super. Ct. Nos. F1100317, F12000376, F12000450, F12000504B, F13000059, F13000175, M12001105, M12001123, M12001618B, M12001672A, M12001776, M130093

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COUNSEL

Jones & Mayer and James R. Touchstone for Petitioners.

No appearance for Respondent.

Munkelt Law Office and Stephen A. Munkelt for Real Party in Interest Jacob Michael Siegfried.

OPINION

MAURO, J.

The commander at the Wayne Brown Correctional Facility in Nevada County (the jail) gave notice in early 2013 that lawyers would generally no longer be able to meet face-to-face with their incarcerated clients in visiting rooms without glass partitions, but instead would generally be required to meet with their clients in glass-partitioned rooms. The jail commander cited safety and security concerns. Several inmates, real parties in interest, moved for the restoration of what they characterized as “contact visits, ” face-to-face visits in non-partitioned rooms. The trial court consolidated the motions and held an evidentiary hearing, ultimately ordering that confidential attorney-client contact visits (which the trial court defined as visits in a meeting space without physical barriers between attorney and

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client) be made available at the jail absent circumstances justifying suspension of such visits in individual cases.

The County of Nevada (the county) filed a petition for a writ of mandate or prohibition in this court. We issued a stay and an order to show cause, and subsequently reviewed the briefs and evidence submitted by the county and real parties in interest, along with the amicus curiae briefs submitted by the California State Sheriffs’ Association, the California Police Chiefs Association, the California Peace Officers’ Association, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

We conclude the trial court did not abuse its discretion in ordering that confidential attorney-client contact visits be made available at the jail absent circumstances justifying suspension of such visits in individual cases. We will deny the writ petition and lift the stay.

BACKGROUND

For many years, attorneys representing individuals incarcerated at the jail routinely had face-to-face visits with their clients in non-partitioned rooms at the jail. At the evidentiary hearing in this case, a former jail commander said that during his tenure he allowed attorneys to have such visits unless their clients were particularly violent or posed a threat.

In January 2013, however, the jail commander issued the following notice: “Effective February 4, 2013, the Wayne Brown Correctional Facility will have attorney/client visitation take place in the attorney visitation [partitioned] rooms. This change is being done for the safety and security of the facility, attorneys, and your clients as well as due to increased jail population and staffing issues. Should you require paperwork to be delivered to your client, we will be happy to accommodate you and open the pass through slot in the visitation room. [¶] Any requests for ‘Professional Contact Visits’ need to be approved by the On Duty Supervisor and are limited to the attorney of record.”

The jail commander explained the change by noting that the jail’s population had recently increased and that jail staffing had been reduced. He acknowledged that 50 to 60 new inmates were being housed at the jail pursuant to a contract with the federal government and that the federal government paid the county for their housing.

Following the notice, nearly all meetings between inmates and lawyers took place in partitioned rooms. The rooms are divided by a barrier consisting of the following: glass from ...


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