A private-prison owner wants a federal judge, instead of a Mahoning County Common Pleas Court jurist, to decide a case filed by the city seeking to collect $1.5 million from the company in daily inmate-housing fees.
The city doesn’t object to the request from Corrections Corporation of America, owner of Northeast Ohio Correctional Center on Hubbard Road, said Youngstown Law Director Anthony Farris.
“They have a right to seek to change venues, and that’s fine with us,” Farris said. “We’re not violating any constitutional provisions and we’re confident any court will rule the same.”
In its request to change venues, Timothy J. Bojanowski of Chandler, Ariz., an attorney for CCA, wrote that the case belongs in federal court because the dispute was brought by a city in Ohio against a company that was incorporated in Maryland with its principal place of business in Nashville, Tenn.
The case is assigned to Judge James C. Evans of common pleas court.
Judge R. Scott Krichbaum of common pleas court ruled in May that Youngstown didn’t violate the state or federal constitutions or the city charter when its city council approved legislation to tax private prisons, effective December 2009. The city ordinance calls for the owners of private prisons to pay a $1-per-prisoner, per-day tax on inmates.
That ruling came after CCA, the only private prison in Youngstown, filed a lawsuit in January 2010 in common pleas court contending the city’s prison-tax ordinance violated laws.
CCA’s prison houses about 1,500 illegal immigrants convicted of felonies, through a contract with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.
CCA filed an appeal Sept. 13 in the 7th District Court of Appeals. That matter is progressing in that court.
Based on Judge Krichbaum’s decision, the city filed a complaint Sept. 28 in common pleas court to collect $1.5 million from CCA in back fees. This is the case CCA wants to transfer to federal court.
A CCA spokesman said last month that the inmate tax “is not only invalid but unwarranted,” and the company has a “compelling case to make.”