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Case Name Prison Legal News v. Johnson PC-VA-0014
Docket / Court 3:09-cv-00068-nkm-bwc ( W.D. Va. )
State/Territory Virginia
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Case Summary
On October 8, 2009 the Prison Legal News, which prints a monthly journal reporting on criminal justice news and issues, filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Virginia Department of Corrections, and others in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia, ... read more >
On October 8, 2009 the Prison Legal News, which prints a monthly journal reporting on criminal justice news and issues, filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Virginia Department of Corrections, and others in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia, Charlottesville Division. The plaintiff, represented by private counsel, asked the court for declaratory and injunctive relief and nominal, compensatory and punitive damages, claiming that the defendants had engaged in censorship of the plaintiff's publication, "Prison Legal News."

Specifically the plaintiff claimed that the defendants had violated the organization's First Amendment rights by censoring its publications in Virginia state prisons. Furthermore, the Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) failed to notify the plaintiff when material from their publications had been rejected preventing them from challenging censorship decisions. In addition, the VDOC prevented prisoners' familes and friends from purchasing PLN products on behalf of prisoners. The plaintiff argued that these practices violated their First Amendment right to communicate with prisoners and to challenge censorship decisions.

On November 23, 2010, the Court (Judge Norman K. Moon) signed an order dismissing the case with prejudice. The court took this action after receiving notice the previous day that the parties had reached a settlement. While a signed settlement document does not appear to have been filed with the court, there are copies of the unsigned settlement agreements available. The monetary and non-monetary settlements are detailed in two separate unsigned documents. Furthermore, the terms of the agreement were detailed by the Prison Legal News on their website, contained within a press release. The defendants agreed to pay damages totaling $125,250.00, which included attorney fees and litigation costs. In addition, the defendants agreed; to remove the Prison Legal News, a publication of the plaintiff, from its disapproved publications list, to notify the VDOC wardens that the Prison Legal News did not appear to violate any institutional polices, to ensure that any censorship decisions were promptly communicated to PLN, to allow for prisoners' family and friends to purchase PLN books and subscriptions, and to allow PLN to communicate with prisoners by sending them books and other materials.

Justin Benson - 03/19/2011


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Freedom of speech/association
General
Mail
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Virginia Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description Prisoner publication
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Damages
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year 2010
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Civil Rights Injunctions Over Time: A Case Study of Jail and Prison Court Orders
N.Y.U. Law Review
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University)
Citation: 81 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 550 (2006)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  Judicial Policy Making and the Modern State: How the Courts Reformed America's Prisons
By: Malcolm M. Feeley & Edward Rubin (UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law & Vanderbilt School of Law Faculty)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

Links Prison Legal News Homepage
Prison Legal News
By: Prison Legal News
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
3:09-cv-00068-nkm-bwc (W.D. Va.) 10/08/2009
PC-VA-0014-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint and Jury Demand 10/08/2009
PC-VA-0014-0001.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended Complaint and Jury Demand 05/07/2010
PC-VA-0014-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Consent Order (proposed) 11/22/2010 (W.D. Va.)
PC-VA-0014-0003.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT- Monetary (Unsigned) 11/22/2010
PC-VA-0014-0004.pdf | Detail
SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT- Non-Monetary (Unsigned) 11/22/2010
PC-VA-0014-0005.pdf | Detail
Judges Moon, Norman K. (W.D. Va.)
PC-VA-0014-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Cook, Adam K (Vermont)
PC-VA-0014-9000
Fogel, Jeffrey E. (Virginia)
PC-VA-0014-0001 | PC-VA-0014-0002 | PC-VA-0014-0003 | PC-VA-0014-9000
Manville, Daniel E. (Michigan)
PC-VA-0014-0001 | PC-VA-0014-0002 | PC-VA-0014-9000
Rosenfield, Steven David (Virginia)
PC-VA-0014-0001 | PC-VA-0014-0002 | PC-VA-0014-0003 | PC-VA-0014-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Davis, Mark Ralph (Virginia)
PC-VA-0014-0003 | PC-VA-0014-9000
Parsons, John Michael (Virginia)
PC-VA-0014-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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