Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
An Albuquerque attorney wants to know if jail officials are providing someone with recordings of his phone conversations with a client and has filed a lawsuit seeking an answer.
Attorney William Cooley filed a public records request May 25 with the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center to learn the identity of anyone seeking recordings of his protected conversations with an inmate.
Jail officials called the request “broad and burdensome” and repeatedly asked for additional time to respond, according to the 2nd Judicial District Court lawsuit.
“You would think that that would be the easiest thing for them to answer,” Cooley said Wednesday. “I didn’t realize it was going to be such a hassle to get the answer.”
Conversations between attorneys and clients are protected by law, he said. Without disclosing details, Cooley said he has reason to believe that some person or agency has sought recordings of those conversations.
“I have some idea that that’s a possibility,” Cooley said. “I hope that I’m wrong.”
The lawsuit asks a judge to issue an injunction ordering Bernalillo County to produce the records. It also seeks unspecified damages.
Bernalillo County spokeswoman Tia Bland said Wednesday that the county “will review the lawsuit and work toward a resolution.”
Cooley represents Stephen Bailey, a driver for an Albuquerque towing company who was accused in May 2021 of drunken driving, fatally striking a pedestrian and fleeing the scene in his employer’s tow truck. Jonathan Rosales, 26, was found dead at the scene in the 7600 block of Isleta SW near Interstate 25.
Bailey, 26, has remained at MDC since May 2021 on charges of vehicular homicide while intoxicated and knowingly leaving the scene of an accident. Cooley said he and his client have had numerous phone conversations since Bailey’s arrest.
Cooley filed the records request May 25 through Bernalillo County’s Inspection of Public Records Act web portal seeking “records of any inquiries/requests for information” about Bailey, according to the suit.
Cooley also asked for “names and contact information for the individuals or agencies” that requested the information.
The state Inspection of Public Records Act gives the public the right to inspect records of state and local agencies on written request, with certain exceptions.
If access can’t be provided within three business days, the agency must send a letter explaining when the records will be available. But the records must be provided within 15 days unless the request is determined to be excessively broad and burdensome.
Bernalillo County responded to Cooley through its web portal five times from May 25 to July 20, saying each time that the request was “broad and burdensome” and extending the expected response date, the suit said.
Phillip Baca, an Albuquerque attorney who filed the lawsuit on Cooley’s behalf, said MDC provided a large number of records after the lawsuit was filed on July 25, but none of the records appear to provide the information Cooley requested.