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Vermont Supreme Court Rules Inmate's Phone Fee Lawsuit Should Proceed

The exterior of the Vermont Supreme Court.
John Dillon
VPR File

The Vermont Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a Vermont inmate who claims the state violated the law when it awarded a contract for telephone services provided to inmates.

According to plaintiff Kirk Wool, the Department of Corrections failed to use a competitive bidding process when it contracted the telephone company around 2012.

Wool claims the company charges inmates $8 per hour, while other companies charge $3.

Late last year, the Washington County trial court dismissed Wool’s claims.

On Friday, the Supreme Court reversed that dismissal. The justices found that if Wool's allegations are true the department may have violated the law. 

Wool argued the initial case and his appeal without the assistance of any lawyers. Now, he will have a chance to prove his case in the trial court. 

Even if he wins, however, Wool will not receive damages. In the decision, the justices affirmed the state’s protected status under sovereign immunity.

In a footnote, Chief Justice Reiber notes that Wool has been relocated to another correctional facility since filing his initial complaint. It's not clear if that will affect the new trial. 

Correction: an earlier version of this story stated phone charges of $8 per minute, rather than per hour.

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