The judge ordered the attorney to remove several Twitter posts, including one which described a Tennessee CoreCivic facility as a “death factory.”
A federal magistrate judge has ruled that an attorney representing inmates held by a for-profit prison must delete certain social media comments, including one which describes a CoreCivic facility in Central Tennessee as a “a death factory.”
According to ABC News, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Frensley issued the order last week after Tennessee-based CoreCivic alleged that attorney Daniel Horwitz’s ongoing, public commentary about the case could jeopardize the company’s right to a fair trial.
ABC News notes that Horwitz filed a lawsuit against CoreCivic and the Trousdale Turney Correctional Facility following the death of an inmate at the facility.
Horwitz had earlier claimed that his Twitter posts are an extension of his First Amendment right to free speech.
Furthermore, Horwitz argued that his clients at other CoreCivic facilities could benefit if public scrutiny leads to institutional and procedural changes.
However, Magistrate Judge Frensley ruled on behalf of CoreCivic, opining that Horwitz’s observations are best reserved for court.
“Trials are meant to occur in the courtroom, not in the media,” Frensley wrote in his ruling. “While litigation is still pending, attorneys should not actively seek out media attention that could disrupt judicial proceedings or interfere with an opposing party’s right to a fair trial.”
The judge further wrote that Horwitz, as an attorney, is meant to be “an advocate, not an investigate journalist.”
Ultimately, Frensley said that Horwitz could be found in contempt of court if he continues to seeks news media coverage of the case.
Frensley also noted that it appears Horwitz “improperly” made Twitter posts about depositions in other CoreCivic-related cases that had not been appropriately filed with the court.
While Frensley warned that these actions could lead to sanctions, he did not remove them from the court’s files.
ABC News notes that Horwitz had earlier taken to Twitter to allege that CoreCivic “juices its profit margins by deliberately understaffing facilities and skimping on healthcare,” and makes it easier to get controlled substances—as well as illegal drugs—into its facilities than “almost anywhere else in America.”
The lawsuit seeks to have the court find that CoreCivic has failed to maintain a constitutional level of inmate safety at Trousdale.
If CoreCivic is unable to amend security concerns at Trousdale, the lawsuit has asked that the court order CoreCivic to cease operations at Trousdale Turner Correctional Facility.
ABC News adds that Trousdale has already attracted scrutiny from regulatory authorities; in 2017 and 2020, officials from the Tennessee comptroller’s office found that the facility was understaffed and had failed to compile accurate data on inmate deaths, lockdowns, and the use of force by contracted prison officials.
State officials fined CoreCivic more than $2 million for the alleged violations.
CoreCivic, however, has denied all of Horwitz’s allegations, including assertions that CoreCivic routinely ignores inmate rape reports and intentionally understaffs its prisons as a profit-saving measure.
“We’ve always believed that the court of law, not the court of public opinion, is the appropriate forum to address legal matters, particularly regarding unproven allegations,” CoreCivic spokesperson Ryan Gustin said in a statement.