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Judge Hears Final Arguments In Prison Health Care Privatization Suit

A Leon Circuit Judge is now set to decide on a case regarding the privatization of health care services in Florida’s prison system. The Judge says he expects to make his decision soon to determine whether a legislative budget panel overstepped when it gave the Florida Department of Corrections the go-ahead on the privatization effort.

Thursday, lawyers for both sides made their final arguments to Judge John Cooper. That includes William Williams, lawyer for Corizon Healthcare, which has already signed a contract with the Florida Department of Corrections to privatize state prison health care services. He argued the Legislative Budget Commission had the authority to give the department its approval. But, Judge Cooper appeared skeptical as to the Legislature’s true intent, since previous attempts to privatize had been struck down.

“So, it’s up to the Legislature to decide the intent? If they don’t say it, then they get to decide it,” asked Judge Cooper.

“In this process, then absolutely,” replied Williams.

“But, if they don’t say it, how will I determine what it is,” asked Judge Cooper. “Leave it up to 14 members of the Legislature to tell me?”

Alma Gonzalez is a lawyer for AFSCME, or the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a union suing the department. Gonzalez says she believes the judge was swayed by her group’s arguments that the full Florida Legislature, not a small subset, should have taken up the matter.

“Well, that is what Democracy is about. And, the Legislature, as a separate branch of constitutional branch of government, has the opportunity to do that, but it does that in the light of day in front of everybody, not 14 people ruled by committee, as the judge pointed out,” remarked Gonzalez.

In addition to AFSCME, the case was filed by unions representing three thousand correctional employees, who will be affected by its outcome.

Stay tuned to here more on this story on Friday's Capital Report. To read more, CLICK HERE

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on twitter @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.