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Surveillance System May Have Recorded Courthouse Conversations in Violation of Federal Law

Posted Nov 4, 2011 7:46 AM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A security system installed in June in one or more courthouses in Baldwin County, Ala., included a number of cameras that also recorded audio placed in high-risk areas such as exits and hallways.

However, until yesterday no one apparently told lawyers who routinely look for a quiet spot in public areas to confer with clients, according to the Press-Register.

Local defense attorneys expressed outrage at the potential breach of attorney-client privilege and the Baldwin County Commission said it had disabled the audio portion of the cameras this week "out of an abundance of caution," the newspaper reports. District Attorney Hallie Dixon said she learned of the audio issue last week and insisted on the shutdown.

The county sheriff says the U.S. Attorney's office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are reviewing the matter.

"Just about every lawyer I have talked to has been shocked and outraged,” said Daniel Mitchell, a local defense lawyer. “We all knew there were cameras, but no one ever notified anyone that there was more than video monitoring. Our bar association certainly didn’t know about it.”

Throughout the country, some citizens who use cellphones in public areas to record police have been arrested and criminally charged.

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