University of Michigan Law School
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Case Name Prison Legal News v. Stephens PC-LA-0012
Docket / Court 2:09-cv-7515 ( E.D. La. )
State/Territory Louisiana
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Case Summary
On December 3, 2009 Prison Legal News ("PLN") and Human Rights Defense Center filed a lawsuit against Sheriff Stephens ("Stephens"), who is responsible for operating the St. Bernard Parish Prison facility ("St. Bernard") , and several employees who work at that facility under 42 U.S.C.§1983 and 198 ... read more >
On December 3, 2009 Prison Legal News ("PLN") and Human Rights Defense Center filed a lawsuit against Sheriff Stephens ("Stephens"), who is responsible for operating the St. Bernard Parish Prison facility ("St. Bernard") , and several employees who work at that facility under 42 U.S.C.§1983 and 1988. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, asked the court for injunctive and declaratory relief, as well as damages, alleging that the defendants maintained an unlawful policy of refusing to deliver incoming PLN publications addressed to prisoners in violation of the 1st and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and 42 USC 1983. Plaintiffs also alleged violations of due process of the law due to the failure to give notice and an opportunity for the plaintiff publishers and distributors whose publications to respond to the denial of access..

On Jan. 12, 2010 plaintiffs filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction. On January 19, 2010 the District Court (Judge Jay C. Zainey) issued a Minute Entry noting that the parties were working to reach a settlement and scheduling a settlement conference. During this conference, the parties reached a settlement.

On May 18, 2010, the District Court (Judge Zainey) signed a Consent Judgment pursuant to the parties' settlement agreement, granting plaintiffs injunctive relief only. This Consent Judgment required the defendants to distribute to plaintiffs' subscribers at St. Bernard past issues of plaintiffs' monthly publication. In addition, defendants agreed to adopt and implement within 30 days a new written policy regarding St. Bernard's prisoners' receipt of publications. This new policy required the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff's Office to permit an "inmate to subscribe to or to receive publications without prior approval," provided that such publications "are not detrimental to the security, discipline, or good order of the institution." The Consent Judgment stipulated that is was the full and final judgment between the parties with regard to permanent injunctive relief only. The Consent Judgment did not finalize a settlement agreement between the parties with respect to the damages and declaratory relief plaintiffs sought.

On June 17, 2010, the parties advised the District Court (Judge Zainey) via telephone that they had reached a tentative settlement agreement concerning damages and attorneys' fees, subject to approval by the Louisiana Sheriff's Association. Upon receiving notice of the tentative settlement agreement, the District Court (Judge Zainey) dismissed the action, but retained jurisdiction over the matter to enforce the settlement agreements.

Mark Scoville - 04/09/2011


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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) Sheriff and other employees of St. Bernard Parish Prison
Plaintiff Description Plaintiff Prison Legal News, a monthly prison law magazine which is distributed across the nation to prisoners, and Human Rights Defense Counsel, owner and publisher of PLN.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Mixed
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Private Settlement Agreement
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year 2011
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)
2:09−cv−07515 (E.D. La.) 06/17/2010
PC-LA-0012-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint 12/03/2009
PC-LA-0012-0001.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR A PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION 01/12/2010
PC-LA-0012-0005.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
CONSENT JUDGMENT FOR INJUNCTIVE RELIEF ONLY 05/18/2010
PC-LA-0012-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Modified Incoming Publications Policy 05/18/2010
PC-LA-0012-0003.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order of Dismissal (MINUTE ENTRY (JS-10: 15)) 06/17/2010
PC-LA-0012-0004.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Zainey, Jay C. (E.D. La.)
PC-LA-0012-0002 | PC-LA-0012-0004 | PC-LA-0012-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Cumming, Elizabeth C. (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0012-0001 | PC-LA-0012-0005 | PC-LA-0012-9000
Howell, Mary E. (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0012-0001 | PC-LA-0012-0002 | PC-LA-0012-0005 | PC-LA-0012-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Gutierrez, Salvador (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0012-0002 | PC-LA-0012-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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