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, ...
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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