Case Number: 22-1440-III
Court: The Chancery Court of Davidson County, Tennessee, for the Twentieth Judicial District at Nashville
Client: Associated Press
Motion to Intervene Filed: Dec. 8, 2022
Background: In October 2022, Henry Hodges, a death-row inmate with a history of mental illness, sued two senior officials with the Tennessee Department of Correction, alleging that they violated his civil rights by subjecting him to cruel and unusual punishment. Hodges, who reportedly harmed himself while under suicide watch, accused prison officials of placing him in six-point restraints and strapping him to a mattress without any clothes, among other allegations.
As the Associated Press has reported, Hodges’s complaint highlighted concerns about poor mental health services in U.S. prisons and raised questions about what officials in Tennessee and other states are doing to confront the problem.
In December 2022, the prison officials sought a protective order to prevent the public disclosure of records that have been provided to Hodges through discovery in the lawsuit, including recordings of prison staff using security restraints. Hodges opposed the prison officials’ attempt to shield the records from the public.
In advance of a court hearing on Dec. 16, 2022, the Associated Press, represented by Paul McAdoo, the Reporters Committee’s Local Legal Initiative attorney for Tennessee, filed a motion to intervene in support of Hodges’s opposition to the prison officials’ request to keep the records under seal. Given the significant public interest in this case, the news outlet argues that the prison officials have not carried their burden to justify the protective order they seek.
Quote: “Numerous courts have opined in a variety of contexts that civil rights cases and the treatment of people who are incarcerated is a matter of profound public interest,” McAdoo argued in a court filing on behalf of the AP. “And widespread news coverage of Mr. Hodges’ hunger strike, mental health crisis, and treatment by correctional staff underline the compelling public interest in his case, in particular.”
Updates: On Jan. 12, 2023, Davidson County Chancellor I’Ashea Myles ordered the state to disclose certain records it provided to Hodges during discovery. On Feb. 21, 2023, three partially redacted videos were made public in court filings. As the Associated Press and the Nashville Banner reported, the graphic videos show prison staff physically restraining and forcibly medicating Hodges while he repeatedly complains that he is in pain.
2023-01-12: Chancellor’s protective order